Express Yourself (N.W.A song)

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"Express Yourself"
Single by N.W.A
from the album Straight Outta Compton
Released March 27, 1986 (1986-03-27)[1]
Format 12" single
Recorded 1986
Length 4:26
4:42 (extended mix)
N.W.A singles chronology
"Gangsta Gangsta"
"Express Yourself"
"100 Miles and Runnin'"
"Gangsta Gangsta"
"Express Yourself"
"100 Miles and Runnin'"
Audio sample

"Express Yourself" is a song recorded by American hip hop group N.W.A, performed solo by Dr. Dre. The song, off their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, samples Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's song of the same name.[2] Unlike most songs on the album and by N.W.A, the song is devoid of profanity. "Express Yourself" was released in 1989 as the album's last single, the album version of the track features rap vocals from Dr. Dre only whereas the 2002 reissue, single edition and video version features small verses from MC Ren and Ice Cube, the writer of the song. The song reached number 26 in the UK in September 1989.[3]


The song's vocals are primarily handled by Dr. Dre though an extended version features interludes from Ice Cube and MC Ren. NWA's version samples Charles Wright & the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band's hit, also titled "Express Yourself" (1971).

The song's lyrics focus on the concept of free expression and the constraints placed on rappers by radio censorship. The song is notable for including lines criticising other rappers for not swearing in order to get radio airplay despite the song itself containing no profanity, being based on a pop-music sample with a clearly 'radio friendly' tone.

This song is featured in the video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, and EA's Skate.

The track listing for this single was added to the 2002 re-release of N.W.A's debut album Straight Outta Compton as the last 4 songs. The single's last song "A Bitch Iz a Bitch" appeared on the 1989 reissue of N.W.A. and the Posse as its fourth track.

In 1989, the Australian government youth radio station Triple J played the song on continuous loop for 24 hours (360 times in a row) while the station went on a protest strike against censorship.[4] After playing NWA's "Fuck tha Police" for six months, government action had forced the station to stop playing the song. At that time Triple J had been the only station in the world playing the controversial song. Continuously playing the band's other popular song during this strike was deemed an appropriate response to show solidarity with the band and dissatisfaction with the decision.

Music video[edit]

The music video starts with a black and white video of slaves working on a plantation. The video then moves to the ghetto, as the band members walk through it and dance with the local residents. A "No Rapping" sign is shown. A mounted officer (played by Skeeter Rader) enforces the law on the crowd. Occasionally band members are depicted rapping in a prison environment. Later on Dr. Dre plays the role of the US president. At one point he is talking on the phone with Mikhail Gorbachev, and a photo of Martin Luther King can be seen in the background. A parody of John F. Kennedy's assassination follows. The video ends with Dr. Dre being executed in an electric chair. In the version appearing on the EMI YouTube channel numerous parts are blurred out including logos and faces.

Cover versions[edit]

Silkk the Shocker recorded a version of the song on the N.W.A tribute album, Straight Outta Compton: N.W.A 10th Anniversary Tribute that also was released as a single and had a promotional music video.

Between the Rancid releases of ...And Out Come the Wolves and Life Won't Wait from 1995 to 1998, Tim Armstrong recorded a version of "Express Yourself" with the band The Silencers on the Life Won't Wait Demos. The first half of the demo consists of Rancid demos and the second half consists of The Silencers demos. Stretch Arm Strong also recorded a version of "Express Yourself" for "Engage."

Labrinth released his own rendition of the song in 2012.

Darren Hanlon and The Audreys have both recorded their covers for Triple J in 2014.[5]

German metal band Rammstein sampled the intro to "Express Yourself", albeit slower, in their song "Klavier" off their sophomore album Sehnsucht.[6]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Express Yourself" (Extended Mix) – 4:42
  2. "Bonus Beats" – 3:03
  3. "Straight Outta Compton" (Extended Mix) – 4:54
  4. "A Bitch Iz a Bitch" – 3:10


Chart (1989–90) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 96
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[8] 26
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[9] 45
US Hot Rap Songs (Billboard)[10] 2


External links[edit]