After the song garnered popularity, Tems said that although she was "happy" with her first recording of the song, she felt her verse could have been better. However, Wizkid and his team thought her vocals were great and ultimately kept it. Tems recalled hearing the song "in the most random places", while in Los Angeles.
"Essence" is an Afrobeats/Afro-pop and R&B song. Lyrically, it sees Wizkid and Tems yearning for each other's physical connection; deemed a "flirtatious" song, the artists deliver "tongue-in-cheek showboating". As observed by NPR's Sidney Madden, the song features Tems singing the chorus about how only her lover can give her the feeling of "lust and obsession and worship that she deserves", with the lyrics "You don't need no other body. You don't need no other body".
Henrietta Taylor of Nigerian publication DST lauded the collaboration, writing: "The Nigerian artists make a formidable duo in the glossy Afrobeats single, with the more established Wizkid giving rising-star Tems a platform to give listeners a glimpse of her knock-out vocals". Praising the chorus as "the hook that keeps on giving", NPR's Sidney Madden opined that the song was not immediately appreciated, due to COVID-19, writing: "this song didn't really get the justice or even the fair playing field it deserved because we were all inside, we were all quarantined. But now that concerts and outdoor picnics and anywhere where the communal experience of music is appreciated is coming back, this song is going to be everywhere, and it's going to continue to go up". Calling the track a perfect mix of Afropop and R&B, Pan African Music said the duo "present an ode to lust" as they "embody sexual desire, advocating a sense of reciprocity". Regina Cho of Revolt deemed the song a stand-out from Made in Lagos, calling Tems's verse "sensual".GRM Daily's Courtney W called it a "silky, smooth" offering. Conversely, NME called the track "expendable".
In 2021, "Essence" was ranked as the number one best song of 2021 by American magazine Rolling Stone.
The music video was released on 9 April 2021. Directed by Director K of PriorGold Pictures, and produced by Leke Alabi Isama, it was shot in Accra, Ghana. It was the fourth video to be released from Made in Lagos. The visual sees Wizkid and Tems lounging in the streets of Accra, while Wizkid is later seen riding in a car with two women. The video was considered "colourful" and "scintillating",  with GRM Daily saying, "The visuals perfectly coincide with the track's blissful feel and include colourful fits, scenic shots and good vibes".Rolling Stone said the artists "glow, Wiz bare-chested and draped in diamonds, Tems in slick braids and flowing garb".