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Idris Elba Explains How He ‘Hustled’ His Way on to Jay-Z’s Album on ‘Fallon’

Idris Elba stopped by The Tonight Show to discuss his forthcoming film Beast. The actor, who is also a DJ, took the opportunity to explain to host Jimmy Fallon how he ended up on Jay-Z’s 2007 LP American Gangster, as well as Paul McCartney’s 2021 effort McCartney III Reimagined.

“Both these albums I’m on, and both those artists don’t know I’m on those albums,” Elba confirmed to Fallon “You know what I mean? I literally hustled my own on to those albums.”

The actor recounted how he ended up on Jay-Z’s album because he was starring in the film American Gangster. “At the time I hear Jay was about to do an album associated with the film,” Elba recalled. “And I was like, ‘I need to get on that.’ As you do. You’re like, ‘I’m Idris, I need to be on that Jay-Z album.’ No idea why Jay would be like, ‘Yeah, sure, do it.’”

After connecting with someone who works with Jay-Z, the actor wrote a “long poem” that he put to a beat. “Actually it was a rap, but it didn’t sound good as a rap,” he explained. “So I said, ‘Maybe I should speak this’ because Jay might be a little more accommodating to my speaking voice. And I sent it to him and we got this text back from Jay saying, ‘Um, I don’t love this… I f-cking love it.’”

The actor also discussed his career as a DJ and Beast, which is out in theaters on Aug. 19. In the film, Elba portrays Dr. Nate Daniels, a widowed dad of two teenage girls who takes his family on a sightseeing trip to the South African game reserve. Their journey quickly becomes bloody as they come face-to-face with a massive lion hellbent on killing every human it encounters.

Elba’s spin on McCartney’s “Long Tailed Winter Bird” appeared exclusively on the physical version of III Imagined, a remixed edition of the musician’s 2020 album McCartney III. 

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