Idris Elba Jokes He ‘Hustled’ His Way Into Collabs With Jay-Z & Paul McCartney

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Idris Elba stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday (Aug. 8) to spill all the tea about how he ended up collaborating with both Jay-Z and Paul McCartney.

“What’s more pressure? How do you get in these situations?” host Jimmy Fallon asked the actor and DJ of writing the intro track to Hov’s 2007 album American Gangster, and remixing “Long Tailed Winter Bird” for the former Beatle’s 2021 LP McCartney III Imagined. “How do you do this? I love that you do this!”

“Both these albums, you know, I’m on, and both those artists don’t know I’m on those albums, you know what I’m saying?” Elba quipped, much to Fallon’s delight. “I literally hustled my way onto both of those albums.”

The American Gangster star then regaled the late-night host with the story of how he conspired to get on Jay’s concept album of the same name by writing a rap, which soon became a spoken word poem (“because Jay might be a little more accommodating to my speaking voice”), and quickly earned the rapper’s stamp of approval.

Elba also reminisced during the chat about how he got started in his second career as a popular DJ by turning cereal boxes into makeshift turntables because he couldn’t afford the real thing. “Innovation, man! This is what we had to do!” he insisted to an amazed Questlove, who was following the story from his perch behind the drums. “I was the best DJ in the world because my speakers had no sound!”

Of course, the five-time Emmy nominee’s DJing aspirations have come a long way since then, as he’s released a full-length studio set and five EPs, launched his record label 7Wallace Music, and even performed at Coachella in 2019. In June, he also played a set at the inaugural edition of U.K. festival Creamfields South.

Watch Elba’s full interview with Fallon below.

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