We hear about her influences (Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte) on "Higher," a more gentle piece, with lots of keyboard chimes and splash cymbal, and how "intelligence is beauty/irrelevance is booty," but you'll hear more Q-Tip and Eminem in her delivery than any of those gals who dip into R&B. Cam Groves and Spose do more singing than Lady E, that's for sure.

Really, the farther she gets from classic bangers the less I like it. "What I'm Feelin'" has a nice groove to it, with a backing like steel drums and a tub bass, and the way the lyrics pour out, first singled then doubled, makes for good flow, but the indecisiveness ruined the vibe for me: "What do I feel?/How do I feel it?/Is it real or a lie?"

I can only get with the split-personality thing for so long. Are you going to punch me in the face or cry on my shoulder?

In the end, though, Essence knows what's what. The 8-bit digital maelstrom of "Everybody Got a Method" has her as edgy and bitter as anything on the record, a reflection of the hard shell she's adopted to get through life. It may be unfortunate she had to don that tough exterior, but it's the source of her fire and the spark you just can't turn away from.

"Trying to keep me passion controlled," she raps, "I know I get loud."

No, no. Let's hear you louder still.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached atsam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

RIGHT NOW | Released by Lady Essence, on PDank Entertainment | with Antiseptic + Mouth Washington + Sandbag + Educated Advocates | at Asylum, in Portland | August 27 | facebook.com/Essencehiphop

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