Line Up

Idris Elba

While he’s best known as an actor who has appeared in many Television shows and movies, Idris Elba has also made a name for himself in music, establishing himself as a DJ, producer, rapper, and singer. Elba’s music is rooted in hip-hop, African music, and reggae, with his rich, resonant voice adding weight and texture to his atmospheric, edgy beats. His debut album, 2014’s Mi Mandela, was inspired by his experience playing Nelson Mandela and the music of South Africa, 2016’s Murdah Loves John was an exercise in moody hip-hop, and Idris Elba Presents: The Yardie Mixtape was a reggae-oriented set tied into his directorial debut, 2018’s Yardie.

In 1991, Elba started spinning at London nightclubs using the stage name DJ Big Driis. Elba’s schedule was busy with film and television roles, but he continued to pursue musical projects; in 2006, he released an EP, Big Man, under the name Driis, and the following year he wrote and produced a track for Jay-Z’s album American Gangster. The year 2010 brought another Driis EP, High Class Problems, Vol. 1, and he guested on Pharoahe Monch’s 2011 album W.A.R. In 2012, he performed guest vocals on the Milk’s Tales from the Thames Delta, and handled backing vocals and percussion on Macy Gray’s 2012 collection Covered.

Elba’s 2016 album Murdah Loves John, was a moody mix of hip-hop, R&B, and African music inspired by his character in the TV series Luther. He made his debut as a feature film director with the 2018 drama Yardie, and to accompany the release, he issued The Yardie Mixtape, a collection of reggae and hip-hop songs tied into the picture. In December 2020, Elba released a track he created in collaboration with Inner City and a Michigan-based anti-racism organization, Detroit Will Breathe; “We All Move Together” was created in response to the murder of George Floyd and frequent accusations of racially motivated violence from the Detroit police department. Elba’s next release was lighter fare: “Fudge” was a house track that teamed him with Latvian DJ Eliza Legzdina, which he worked on during downtime from a film shoot in Australia.