“Got ‘Til It’s Gone” by Janet Jackson (ft. Q-Tip & Joni Mitchell)

Upon reading the lyrics of Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”, the idea being presented in this song is quite simple. It is based on an ideology, as Janet Jackson explained in her own word, which consists of “appreciat(ing) what you have while you have it” and “tak(ing) nothing for granted”. But of course with this being a pop song and all, said lesson is put within a romantic context. And basically Jackson and Q-Tip are portraying two sides of the same coin.

Janet comes off as someone who had a good partner at one point in time, that being the addressee. However, she apparently did not love him properly, thus spoiling their relationship. So now she is in a situation where she is lamenting a lost love.

Meanwhile Q-Tip is the one being abused, so to speak. His shorty, who may well be the same lady Jackson is portraying, associates with anti-Q busybodies, in addition to the lady being hard to handle herself. So now Q, in his frustration, has decided to cut her off, with homegirl, in her feelings, now learning “that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.  Meanwhile the titular phrase itself is actually a sample from an old Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970), which lyrically serves as the chorus of this track.

Lyrics of Janet Jackson's "Got ’Til It’s Gone"

Writing and Production of “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

The three vocalists co-wrote this song along with the following:

  • René Elizondo Jr.
  • Des’ree
  • Michael Kwesi Graves

The track’s producers, the legendary Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, also receive co-writing credits.

Des’ree and Graves were credited due to writing another song which was sampled into “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”, which we will get into shortly.

Janet Jackson is also credited as a producer of the track.

It is worth pointing out that this track marks the first time Janet Jackson had dropped a song with Q-Tip or Joni Mitchell. And some two decades afterwards, it appears as if this will be the only collaboration ever between these artists. 

Release Date of “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

This tune is derived from Miss Jackson’s sixth-studio album, “The Velvet Rope”. At the same time she was recording this project, Janet also laid down a cover of a song Joni Mitchell released in 1988 entitled “The Beat of Black Wings”. That is to say that Janet is in fact a fan of Joni Mitchell’s. And whereas her cover of the aforementioned track never officially came out, she did manage to give a shoutout to “a big yellow taxi” on her 1986 track “The Pleasure Principle”.

Jackson had resolved early on that she wanted to feature a rapper on “The Velvet Rope”. And she concluded that having both Mitchell and Q-Tip on a track would be a cool combination since “what they write is poetry”.

The release date of “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”, via Virgin Records, was on 7 October 1997, alongside the rest of its album. And it also served as the lead single from that project.

Recording Process

Joni Mitchell herself didn’t lay down any live vocals for this track. Rather “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” relies heavily on a vocal sample from “Big Yellow Taxi”, a song which Mitchell came out with back in 1970.

Officially it had been concluded, after the fact, that “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” samples yet another track. That would be “Feel So High” (1991) by a British singer named Des’ree. However, Des’ree did not receive the same level of recognition as Joni Mitchell. That is to say that she received no recognition and subsequently sued Janet Jackson for plagiarism. This resulted in an out-of-court settlement where Des’ree was awarded a hefty sum of money in addition to official credit on the song.

Music Video

The music video to this track was inspired by African photography and set during South Africa’s apartheid era. But its actually filming took place in Los Angeles, in a venue called the Hollywood Palladium. And it was directed, at Janet Jackson’s request, by Mark Romanek.

The clip premiered just prior to the MTV Video Music Awards on 4 September 1997. And it was a proven success. For instance, it won a 1998 Grammy Award in the category of Best Short Form Music Video. And it also took home a couple of MVPA (Music Video Production Association) Awards in the categories of Pop Music Video of the Year and Best Art Direction. Moreover, it earned a VH1 Fashion Award for Most Stylish Music Video.

And the song itself also took home its fair share of accolades. For instance, it topped the UK R&B Chart and charted in over 20 territories overall. It has also been certified gold in Australia, France and New Zealand. The track has also gone on to possess a notable pop media presence.

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