Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Idris Elba's YARDIE Mixtape is masterclass in selection

"Idris Elba Presents: The YARDIE Mixtape"

Release date: 05 July 2019
01 July 2019, 13:34 Written by Caitlin Clark
Idris Elba is a man of many talents: DJ, producer, director, actor, rumoured James Bond and a proven master track selector.

Inspired by his directorial debut YARDIE, The YARDIE Mixtape embraces, re-lives and re-tells the story of the film. The roots of Kingston, Jamaica in the '70s and the earthy grit of '80s Hackney – two places Elba himself has a strong love affair with – are explored in further depth.

The record starts with the first of three short skits; these tiny snippets of the film work in duality, at once giving the record a backbone and reiterating the key messages explored in the film. At times, Elba struggled to choose between overused crime film tropes and modern storylines, but the soundtrack has clear intention from start to finish. Seemingly ominous in the opening janky key section, "Teapot" blends the Sherlock Holmes-esque solving crimes build-up with bars straight out of the London ends. Cadenza’s penchant for the heavy-hitting bassline adds a dramatism to the track that certifies its status as a late-night club belter.

The second pre-released single "King Fox" is a standout in this mix, encompassing all that is the nemesis of the conflicted protagonist D (played by Aml Ameen). The track, named after the gangster character portrayed by Sheldon Shepherd, makes the most of the weapons in D Double E and Footsie’s arsenal. The bars fly off the handle so hard you can almost taste the spit on the microphone, with the repetitive synthesised strings running in the background like a reveal scene in a horror film stuck on repeat. You may be forgiven for wondering if you’d really “understand” the track without the context of having seen the film, but thanks to the musicality of the London grime duo, it stands tall as a single in its own right.

Elba gilds the film’s soundtrack, and by default this mixtape too, with prime cuts. His history lies in DJing; hand-picking and choosing between hundreds of tracks just to find one that bangs hard enough for people to remember. "Weh Mi Come From" is that track. Sinister enough to soundtrack the drama-fuelled antics of the inner-city but with beats thick enough to send a summer all-day party crowd into a maddened frenzy. Grime sprayer Logan eats up a heavy, synth-drum beat which has been slowed down and chopped up by London producer Kouslin. Why Elba didn’t pre-release this one as a single is the real question.

What’s most welcome about The YARDIE Mixtape, however, is its genre diversity. London’s sticky, thick-beat grime ("Weh Mi Come From" and "King Fox") is offset by a loose reggae track ("Stand By Me") and completely clashes with the 140 BPM Ragga Twins-inspired drum and bass hit "Stannup". “But an album needs flow!” I hear you cry, but this is a mixtape. There’s a difference. And it’s a good one for Elba.

Instead of worrying about creating a record you can listen to from start to finish to satisfy a certain mood, Elba pieces together the jigsaw puzzle of the UK sound-system culture - from its very roots to its most modern interpretations. Much to what the film represents, The YARDIE Mixtape tells the story of young black teens navigating conflicting worlds; the familial setting, the inner-city buzz and whatever happens after dark. Just as much as the film should be appreciated as a piece of art in its own right, so should this mix. Idris Elba truly is the modern day selector.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next