Idris Elba revealed Monday how he ended up on Jay-Z’s 2007 album “American Gangster,” which served as the titular companion to Ridley Scott’s film starring Elba.
“At the time I heard that Jay was about to do an album associated with the movie,” Elba told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” during an appearance to promote his upcoming movie “Beast.” “And I was like, ‘I have to get on it.’ Like you do. You’re like, ‘I’m Idris, I need to be on that Jay-Z album.'”
Elba went to impressive lengths to turn that dream into reality and penned the rapper a “long poem” after reaching out to one of Jay-Z’s associates.
“Actually, it was a rap, but it didn’t sound good as a rap,” Elba told Fallon. “So I said, ‘Maybe I should speak like that’ because Jay might be a little more accommodating with my voice. And I sent it to him and we got this text from Jay saying, ‘Uh, I don’t like it – I fucking love it.'”
The spoken verse had Elba exposing the elements of “gangsterment” in the voice of Angel Wood, the unscrupulous drug dealer who fatally underestimates Frank Lucas’ Denzel Washington character in the film. Jay-Z, clearly in love with reading, sampled it for his album’s “Intro” track.
“Your gangster isn’t defined by how high your jeans are in relation to your waist, but rather how your genes match their expectations,” Elba says in the cut. “Your gangster is not defined by the number of stones in your watch, but rather by the number of stones you move while possessing the watch.”
“I’m on those two albums, and those two artists don’t know I’m on those albums,” Elba told Fallon. “You know what I mean? I literally rocked my own on those albums.