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Idris Elba reveals he wrote Jay-Z a poem to ask to feature on ‘American Gangster’

Idris Elba has revealed that he went the extra mile to schmooze his way onto Jay-Z’s classic 2007 album American Gangster. In order to shoulder out his own space on the piece of hip hop history, the rapper penned a poem and sent it off to his pal. 

It’s not the only mega-stars record he’s worked his way onto either. The Luther actor also ended up working his way onto Paul McCartney’s 2021 remix album McCartney III: Imagined. Not bad connections, but how did they come about Idris?

“Both these albums I’m on, and both those artists don’t know I’m on those albums,” Elba told Jimmy Fallon while on the Tonight Show to promote his new film, Beast. “You know what I mean? I literally hustled my own onto those albums.”

Elba continued: “At the time I hear Jay was about to do an album associated with the film. 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.’”

Thus, Elba penned a long poem, put it to a beat, and sent it off to Jay-Z. “I said, ‘Maybe I should speak this’ because Jay might be a little more accommodating to my speaking voice,” Elba recalled. “And I sent it to him, and we got this text back from Jay saying, ‘Um, I don’t love this…I fucking love it.’”

And there we have it; the rest is history. However, given the contribution that Elba made to the art of the American gangster entertainment oeuvre with The Wire, perhaps it’s only fitting that he features.