Express Yourself (N.W.A song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Express Yourself"
Single by N.W.A
from the album Straight Outta Compton
ReleasedMarch 27, 1989 (1989-03-27)[1]
StudioAudio Achievements (Torrance, California)
GenrePolitical hip hop
Songwriter(s)O'Shea Jackson[2]
N.W.A singles chronology
"Gangsta Gangsta"
"Express Yourself"
"100 Miles and Runnin'"
Audio sample
Music video
"Express Yourself" on YouTube

"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.[3] Unlike most songs on the album and by N.W.A, the song is devoid of profanity and violence. "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.[4]


The song's vocals are primarily handled by Dr. Dre though an extended version features interludes from Ice Cube and MC Ren. The song 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.[5]

In May 1990, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's music radio station Triple J notably stunted by playing "Express Yourself" on a loop. The station's staff had gone on strike over the suspension of Triple J's news director, Nick Franklin, after he had played a portion of fellow N.W.A. song "Fuck tha Police" in a segment discussing the song's subject matter. The station had, notably, been playing the song without incident for several months, but ABC's radio head had requested that the song be given a "rest". The song was played 82 times in a row until the employee was reinstated. Triple J paid tribute to the event in April 2014, when the launch of its new service Double J (which replaced ABC Dig Music) was preceded with another loop of "Express Yourself", including the original recording and covers performed by Australian musicians,[6][5] such as Darren Hanlon and The Audreys.[7]

Music video[edit]

The music video starts with a black and white video of slaves working on a plantation. As they escape, the video transitions 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 Jr. can be seen in the background. One of King's quotes, the famous "I Have a Dream", also appears on a large sign that the band members walk through as the song properly begins. A parody of the assassination of John F. Kennedy follows. The video ends with Dr. Dre being executed in an electric chair. In the version appearing on the EMI YouTube channel and on N.W.A's official VEVO channel on YouTube, numerous parts are blurred out including logos and faces. Despite this, the complete uncensored video can still be found online.[8] The music video features cameos by Sir Jinx, TK Kirkland, and a then-unknown Warren G.

Cover versions and samples[edit]

German metal band Rammstein sampled the intro in their song "Klavier" for the 1997 album Sehnsucht.[9]

Silkk the Shocker recorded a version of the song for the 1998 N.W.A tribute album, Straight Outta Compton: N.W.A 10th Anniversary Tribute. The recording was also released as a single with 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 recorded a version of "Express Yourself" for the 2003 album Engage.

Labrinth heavily interpolated the song for his song of the same name for his 2012 album Electronic Earth: the song was released as a single and reached the UK top 20.

The Basque band Negu Gorriak featured a Basque language version, titled "Adieraz zaitez", on their 1996 covers album Salam, agur.[10]

In media[edit]

"Express Yourself" is featured in the video games Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, EA's Skate, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the in-game station Radio Los Santos. It was used in Episode 3 of Season 3 of the Amazon Prime TV show The Boys.

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 (1989–1990) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[11] 96
UK Singles (OCC)[12] 26
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[13] 45
US Hot Rap Songs (Billboard)[14] 2


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[15] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "N.W.A* - Express Yourself". Discogs. 1989.
  2. ^ "The D.O.C. on Ice Cube Leaving NWA: Cube Was the Spirit". YouTube. 2015-11-13. Archived from the original on 2021-12-14. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  3. ^ "N.W.A's 'Express Yourself' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled.
  4. ^ "N.W.A - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b Casimir, Paul Chamberlin and Jon (2015-09-02). "Express yourself: The day Triple J played the same N.W.A. song 82 times in a row". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  6. ^ Vincent, Peter (2014-04-28). "Double J pays homage to past with Express Yourself stunt". The Age. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  7. ^ "Express Yourself: Why Is Dig Music Playing The Same Song Over And Over? - Double J". 28 April 2014.
  8. ^ The complete uncensored music video on Dailymotion.
  9. ^ "Rammstein's 'Klavier' - Discover the Sample Source". Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Salam, agur". Negu Gorriak (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  11. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt Martha, Victoria, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 206.
  12. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "N.W.A Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  14. ^ "N.W.A Chart History (Hot Rap Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  15. ^ "British single certifications – Nwa – Express Yourself". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 13, 2023.

External links[edit]