This song by all-female R&B group En Vogue was recorded and released in response to the 1992 Los Angeles Rodney King riots. King, who was black, was a Los Angeles resident who became internationally famous when he encountered police brutality from four white Los Angeles police officers, who beat him with police sidearm batons and tasered him. A bystander, George Holliday, recorded this incident from a distance. In spite of the evidence of the video, three officers were acquitted and one undecided on charges of police brutality. The news of the verdict hit the streets, and racial tension sparked a massive wave of riots, arson, and general violence. The case is historic for being one of the first significant uses of citizen surveillance and reporting.
The line, "Free Your Mind" was popularized by George Clinton in his song and album "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
." The phrase is a funk mantra, as George and his P-Funk crew always looked to expand their horizons, often with herbal and chemical assistance. En Vogue uses a more literal interpretation of the phrase, although their lyrics, "Free your mind and the rest will follow," are often misheard as "...your ass will follow."
The song opens with the lines, "Prejudice, want a song about it? Here you go," which comes from the TV series In Living Color, spoken by David Alan Grier's character Calhoun Tubbs.
All four lead members of the group performed lead vocals.
This was written by Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, who were En Vogue's producers.
The video for "Free Your Mind" swept the floor at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, winning for Best Choreography, Best Dance Video and Best R&B Video. It was also nominated for Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Viewer's Choice Award, Best Direction and Best Cinematography. Mark Romanek, who directed the video, is a well-known hand on the music video circuit, as well as directing films which include One Hour Photo.
En Vogue performed this song on a sixth-season episode of the TV sitcom A Different World in 1993.
An article in the January 14, 2012 issue of Science Life magazine mentioned this song and the "Free your mind and the rest will follow line" as the best way to summarize their findings that elite athletes have the ability to shut down parts of their brain not required for competition, giving them a focus that helps them excel. In many cases, athletes won't form clear memories while they are playing, since that part of the brain isn't being used, which explains why post-game interviews are so insipid. The article concluded that this has broader applications, as anyone looking to perform at a high level needs to free their mind.