NWA – Express Yourself

There are some tracks that get me hyped as hell, ready to go, no matter what. N.W.A. made one of them.

The year was 1989 and it was the final single for Straight Outta Compton. In a new twist from the group that dropped Fuck The Police, it’s a mainly upbeat tune centered on a classic soul rock sample, featuring virtually no profanity.

Not only is the song all about positivity, being real, and doing what you love, it’s got one of the most famously (and hilariously) disingenuous lines that I’ve ever heard. Witness Dr. Dre rapping:

I still express yo I don’t smoke weed or sess
cuz it’s known to give a brother brain damage

This is the guy whose debut album was titled The Chronic. His next album had a flat black cover with only a pot leaf on it. At the time it probably sounded like a respectability ploy, but almost 30 years later, it just feels like a good joke. I used to cruise around getting high with friends after school, and we’d all shout along to the lyric while blasting the album as loud as we could. Now that I’m old, I just do the shouting at home, thank you.


Also I found this great picture of the group from 1989, an outtake from an LA Times feature written at the height of their popularity. It’s crazy to think that Easy E, the charismatic man out front, would be dead a few years later. Even crazier to think that Ice Cube would be playing the put-upon father in a family film a decade after that. Even crazier still to think that Dr. Dre, the shy face in the back center of the photo and lone rapper on this track, would be a billionaire another 10 years down the line.

This just reminded me that I totally missed out on seeing Straight Outta Compton in theaters this summer. Did you see it? I’ve heard good things, and I’ve got high hopes, bolstered by this tune right now!

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