Express Yourself: Why Is Dig Music Playing The Same Song Over And Over?

Primary tabs

If you’ve tuned into Dig Music at any stage from 12pm Monday 28 April, you’d have noticed the countdown has begun to the launch of Double J.

On Wednesday afternoon we re-launch as Double J, a new digital radio station that will offer music lovers a fresh new station that relishes the future as much as it embraces the past, a station built on great music and the indescribable joy it brings.

So why play ‘Express Yourself’?

We’re glad you asked. triple j was the only radio station on the planet to play the N.W.A song ‘Fuck Tha Police’ on its release back in 1989. Politicians and police got wind of the fact this controversial song was being broadcast and forced ABC management to take the song off the air.

After ‘Fuck Tha Police’ was banned, triple j’s current affair program at the time On The Nose ran a report about how the decision had come about. Station management informed the story’s producer Nick Franklin mere seconds before the segment was to go to air that it was not to be broadcast. The segment went to air and Franklin was suspended from the ABC a couple of hours later.

‘Fuck Tha Police’ has since featured on triple j hundreds of thousands of times, as the triple j news theme contains a sample of a record scratch from the song. Paul McKercher, the man who made the news theme, explained his process to triple j.

A particularly self-righteous South Australian Liberal senator took umbrage to [‘Fuck Tha Police’] and complained to ABC management who then instructed triple j staff not to play the song, so that was my attempt at oblique irony, I guess.Paul McKercher

The track’s banning, Franklin’s suspension and other enormous changes at the station sparked a strike by triple j staff. To protest, they clogged the airwaves with another N.W.A song, ‘Express Yourself’, playing it on a loop for 24 hours, 365 times in a row, instead of regular programming.

Double J acknowledges this heritage and wants to tip its hat to a very important moment in the history of triple j, a moment that we’re sure plenty of listeners will remember.

We’ve pulled together a few different versions of ‘Express Yourself’, and had a few friends record their own renditions, as we lead up to the launch of Double J this Wednesday afternoon.

Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – ‘Express Yourself’, 1970

‘Express Yourself’ is one of a handful of huge hits for this American soul band and a track that has been sampled plenty of times over the years. It is an iconic and empowering song that inspires those dissociated from the mainstream, those willing to step out of line and stand up for what they believe in. It’s an anthem for those who don’t give a damn what everyone else thinks and it’s a wonderful legacy for Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band to leave.

N.W.A – ‘Express Yourself’, 1989

This track is one of the few songs from N.W.A’s classic 1989 Straight Outta Compton that isn’t centred around violence, but one which means a lot in the triple j story. It’s arguably the most popular rendition of the song and has certainly been the most influential version among acts that have tried their hand at their own versions ever since.

The Audreys – ‘Express Yourself’, 2014

A dark, but very slick version recorded especially for Double J by The Audreys. The groove is straightened out as vocalist Taasha Coates plays around with the melody, offering something rather different to the other renditions.

Wagons – ‘Express Yourself’ {Ft. Si The Philanthropist}, 2014

Melbourne country collective Wagons were good enough to record a version of the tune for Double J as well.

This song was an incredible pleasure to make! The very mantra of the song encourages you to be free to screw with it in whatever way that feels right. Intertwined with the generally positive message, we added some subversive bubbling spookiness, to represent the importance of sometimes unleashing your cheeky darker side too. 


The hip hop breakdown is a nod to the N.W.A version (for which we all have a sentimental fondness), and is done by our drummer and MC extraordinaire Si the Philanthropist (STP). Henry Wagons

N.W.A & Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Rhythm Band – ‘Express Yourself’ {Katalyst Remix}, 2014

Another Double J exclusive, this time thanks to masterful Aussie hip hop DJ and producer Katalyst.

Darren Hanlon – ‘Express Yourself’, 2014

Travelling troubadour Darren Hanlon also recorded his own version of ‘Express Yourself’ exclusively for Double J. Part of the song was recorded in the regional Victorian town of Ouyen, with a packet of cereal from the local pub used as a percussion instrument.

The Silencers – ‘Express Yourself’, 1998

Yes, that is indeed Tim Armstrong from Rancid you hear spitting out the vocals for this great version of ‘Express Yourself’ with The Silencers. Honestly, there’s not much information about this version we can give you except for the fact it was included on a selection of demos for Rancid’s 1998 record Life Won’t Wait. It would have been pretty interesting if this had made the cut as a Rancid song...

Stretch Arm Strong – ‘Express Yourself’, 2001

Another punk rock rendition, this time from South Carolina’s Stretch Arm Strong, and another version that owes more to the N.W.A version than the Charles Wright original.

Statik Selecktah – ‘Express Yourself ’08’ {Ft. Talib Kweli, Termanology & Consequence}, 2007

Producer/DJ Statik Selecktah got his buddies Talib Kweli, Termanology and Consequence to lend a hand on a rejigged version of the N.W.A song for his second LP Stick 2 The Script.

Jack Johnson – ‘Express Yourself’, 2009

Jack Johnson knows that his tune ‘Bubble Toes’ sounds quite a lot like the Charles Wright classic and has acknowledged this in his live performances, as captured on this version from his En Concert album.

Labrinth – ‘Express Yourself’, 2011

British producer Labrinth had a mega hit with his version of ‘Express Yourself’ just a few years ago, proving that the tune still sounds fresh when put into a modern context. Elements of hip hop and modern electro styles have been added to appeal to the kids, but it’s the iconic chorus that continues to carry the song.

Idris Muhammad – ‘Express Yourself’, 1971

The year after Wright’s original, the renowned jazz drummer Idris Muhammad cut a slightly more laidback, instrumental version of the tune. Driven by cool Rhodes keys, trumpet and of course some loose but groovy percussion, it proves you don’t need the lyrics for this song to be brilliant.

Hopeton Lewis – ‘Express Yourself’, 1973

And two years later, the great Hopeton Lewis decided he would cut a reggae version of the tune. His brutal shrieks and grunts, the winding flute solo midway and the general laidback reggae style of the track make it another great, less-wordy version of the song.

We’ll be done with ‘Express Yourself’ at midday this Wednesday when Myf Warhurst officially launches Double J.