First and foremost, who is Lady Essence and how long have you been rhyming?
Lady Essence is Sarah Violette and I am a woman who grew up in a place called Hollis, Maine. Surprisingly, this area has breed some really dope artists who I truly enjoy working with and think very highly of. I began rhyming with my friend Shane Reisinger when I was 13.
That was just writing though, I didn’t start recording until I was 16 and that was sporadic. I recorded consistently when I bought a studio from Shane at the age of 19.
I found out that you represent Maine from communication with Cold Legistics and O*Zee. Describe the hip-hop scene in Maine.
The hip hop scene in Maine is amazing. I really feel like we are on the verge of getting some serious shine and I couldn’t be happier for those who have worked so hard to get to this point. We have such a diverse group of artists and the arrogance/cockiness is so minimal which is what I really love.
We have cats like O*Zee who can spit a barrage of multi-syllables like its no problem and then you switch over to someone like Spose who can make self deprecating catchy tunes all day, all the way to the Educated Advocates who can bring you back to the Tribe Called Quest days like its nothing. I love that. Producer wise, I don’t think people understand the haven of producers we have: Chris Brassard of Cold Legistics, O*Zee, Channing Day, Mike B and Jay Caron of EA, Nate Shupe, Joshua The Lin, and many others; these are some of the best producers Ive ever worked with and are a huge part of what makes Maine so dope.
In 2011, you released one of my favorite albums called Right Now. What did you want to convey with Right Now?
I wanted to convey so many elements of myself in Right Now. I tried to show every different side of me that I possibly could within 18 tracks: the side of me that loves hip hop, the side of me that sometimes hates it, the side of me that struggles with personal relationships, confidence, identity, and the side of me that, when aware of my capability, will not be taken lightly. I wanted people to know that sometimes being a rapper is like a panic attack, which I tried to show in tracks like "What Im Feelin" and "Sarah vs. Ess."
This album is an introduction to myself, who, while may internally be a mess at times, is seriously good at displaying this calm, collected, put together person. But what happens when I'm not that person? What happens when I am? I tried to put the answer to those questions in Right Now.
Do you feel like the project is slept on?
I feel like every rapper probably feels their a little slept on, but this craft takes work not just in terms of your art but marketing too. I think considering how small I am compared to this over saturated market, I got a good amount of love. Plus, it's my first project.
Even Adele got looked over when she dropped 19, but when 21 came out she broke records. That’s just how this industry goes sometimes, but you cant give up and you can't make music solely for the market. There’s a fine balance that must be found and I'm grateful for whatever fans I get.
People should cop Right Now because...
Because it’s a full length, high quality LP that I put my all into and worked really hard leave out any filler tracks or even lyrics. Plus I think I have a different perspective not just because I am a woman, but because I come from an area that rap often failed to take two glances at.
Earlier this year you and Shane Reis released Rain Delay. Where did the title come from and how easy is it to work with Shane?
Rain Delay is a long time in the making. I've been rapping with Shane since I was 13 and though we had put out the ITA project together with O*Zee, we had never done a project with just us two and was rather overdue, hence the name Rain Delay (you can download it HERE).
After Right Now came out I just started right in on making the style of tracks that I used to make whenever it was just me and Shane in the studio and it felt so good to back to our roots of just having fun while being lyrical.
I believe that sexism still exists today regardless of the strides towards gender equality. With that being said does the term "femcee" bother you?
You know, that’s a tricky question. It almost depends on the way it’s being used. If you're using it to say that I'm a female emcee and thus have a different perspective of the world compared to a male emcee, I'm cool with that. Because its true, I have less privileges than males do and my experience being a woman is different and there is no point in trying to say otherwise.
So let’s address this difference with the term “femcee” and maybe talk about the social and political issues that go along with being a female in hip hop, because there’s a lot of sexism in this genre and I love to discuss and create dialogue as to why that is. But if someone’s using the term solely to cast a shadow of inferiority onto me, almost like a disclaimer, that’s wack and unnecessary.
Your writing style is very similar to mine and I value that you put substance into every line. I also appreciate the poetical elements that you use. Where does your inspiration come from and who inspired you growing up?
I grew up listening to a lot of 90’s country music. To be honest, I feel country music back then had some amazing song writing that wasn’t this cliché tractor loving BS it is now. But after that phase died out for me, I listened non stop to Tupac and Eminem and I was also reading poets like Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Ted Hughes, etc.
As far as my technique for rhyme schemes, Eminem was my greatest influence, but for content, I related more with those lost souls who were oppressed or repressed by a system that didn’t accept them. Sylvia Plath conveyed the struggle of being a woman in the rigid era of the 1950’s and Tupac conveyed the frustration of being a young black male in the Rodney King era. My goal was to take create social change with a complex, multi-syllable rhyme scheme that hip hop had not yet heard from a woman.
Here’s a small list of artists who inspire/d me: Eminem, Tupac, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Royce, Joe Budden, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Grieves, Drake, Alyssa Marie, Shane Reis, O*Zee, Black Milk, Kev Brown, Apollo Brown, Dr Dre, Adele, Florence and the Machine, 9th Wonder, Kanye West, Jay Z, Kate Nash, and many more.
You are also a skilled freestyler as evidenced by your videos on your awesome YouTube Channel. Have you ever reached that "zone" in freestyling where people question if the rhymes are written?
Haha, firstly thanks for the props. I actually had a video featured on Worldstarhiphop a while back and I was accused of spitting a written and calling it a freestyle, it has happened with numerous other videos too. To me it is obvious if it is a freestyle when you simply look at how I rhyme writtens and then hear me off the top. It is not nearly as intricate. I'll rhyme like 6-10 syllables on any given line for a written, but with a freestyle I'm lucky to rhyme even 3 syllables, you know?
I would NEVER lie about that kind of thing either and am proud to say I never have. I'm a huge stickler about calling something a freestyle that you’ve written. To me that’s not a freestyle. A free verse or a quick 16 maybe, but not a freestyle.
Talk about the importance of being seen or being visible. Do you have a strategy in regards to releasing visual content?
The visual game is becoming absolutely vital in today’s YouTube market. Rappers are getting anywhere from a thousand to hundreds of thousands of hits just because they are releasing dope visuals. I've just begun to invest in the visual market and I think it’s great that so many people are getting shine off of it. As far as strategy goes, I'm just trying to put out high quality material all around. Quality will always be greater than quantity and that’s what I try to convey.
Do you consider yourself a trendsetter?
Not at all. For me a cool trend is for someone to stop spreading hate because they heard my music or just being inspired by what I have to say. This artist who I have worked with and really respect recently stopped using the word “fag” or “faggot” because of me and honestly, I think that’s the best trend I've ever set.
Describe the emotion related to performing live.
Playing live is amazing. It’s really an untouchable feeling when you are in your home state at a venue you’ve played at dozens of times and the place is packed to watch you perform. There are times when I get in such a zone with it that I don’t want to end the set, so I'll often go off with acapellas to highlight my lyrical game. That’s always my favorite part.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I'm working on an EP with a vocalist from my area by the name of Kristinia Kentigian. She was actually featured on a hook for a track I did with Alyssa Marie (If you don’t know her you NEED to get familiar because she's one of the dopest rappers I've ever heard in my life). I'm actually in the middle of planning a video for that track and just steady working to get tracks done for the actual project. I think this may end up being my very best work to date.
How can the masses get in touch with you?
Facebook + Bandcamp + Twitter + YouTube
Any final words?
My final words would be that I really want to see more female artists getting shine as I feel we do get overlooked. Check out the movement called Illest Femcees as they have a blog where they drop volumes of mixtapes which feature the illest female rappers they can find.
Your top 5 dead or alive would include...
4. Joe Budden
5. Brother Ali
Your musical goal for this year revolves around..
Creating more visuals and working on marketing a bit more!