To one of the most innovative songwriters of our time, we wish Joni Mitchell a happy birthday. The Canadian musician has reached the grand old age of 69 and while she isn’t making music anymore, we still have her legacy to listen through and so we’re going to look at four of her tracks etched into hip hop history.
I Had a King [from the album Joni Mitchell], sampled by PM Dawn on The Ways of the Wind
After the success of PM Dawn’s debut album, featuring the classic Set Adrift On Memory Bliss, the group came with The Bliss Album…? which some called their best work. The original track from Joni’s eponymous album is a beautiful folk acoustic piece that effortlessly drifts from one chord to another.
Big Yellow Taxi [from the album Ladies of the Canyon], sampled by Janet Jackson on Got ‘Til It’s Gone
Possibly one of her most famous song, this was said to have been sampled by The Ummah but the official producers on the credits go to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. If I’m honest, I’m inclined to go with the former but that’s just me. Either way, both songs are beautiful and more so because they both seem to have taken elements from each other; Joni used some of Q-Tip’s vocals in her live performances of the song while Joni was written as a “featured artist” on Jackson’s track.
River [from the album Blue], sampled by Kanye West and Clipse feat. Aura on Crazy
Back when Kanye wasn’t effing around with weird bird women and Kim Kardashian (some may say they’re the same, but we’re not jumping on it), he was making those soulful hip hop tunes and this is definitely one of them. The original taken from probably Joni Mitchell’s most famous album is about wishing for a river to skate away on. We hear you, Joni.
Edith and the Kingpin [from the album The Hissing of Summer Lawns], sampled by Elzhi on Stunted Growth
The original was taken from one of her more experimental “folk jazz” albums and the use of the sample on Elzhi’s Stunted Growth was simple yet effective.