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Listen to Idris Elba’s ‘Yardie’ playlist that inspired actor Aml Ameen

Director Idris Elba made a playlist to help Aml Ameen get into character for ‘Yardie’ – here are the actor’s highlights and his reflections on Jamaica’s cultural influence

Idris Elba’s directorial debut, Yardie, is released this week. To mark the big occasion, The Big Issue sat down with the film’s star, Aml Ameen, at the Hackney Picturehouse in London.

Yardie is a loving adaptation of Victor Headley’s 1992 cult novel. As well as showing Ameen as main character D leaving Jamaica for London’s underworld on a revenge mission, Yardie also depicts the nascent soundclash scene in London. Actor Ameen went deep into the role, spending time in Jamaica, living in the accent and character during filming, and listening to a special playlist Idris Elba – who is also a DJ, hip hop and soul musician, and runs record label 7Wallace Music – made to help him get into the zone. It was, says Ameen, a musical education.

“Idris put together a playlist for us, I’m talking Ska, Punk Rock, Lovers Rock,” he says, reaching for his phone. “I have a Yardie playlist in here! We decided, me and Idris, to go method on this. Once I came back from Jamaica, no more Aml. I landed on set and people only met me as D – from the accent to the mindset and the way I interact.”

Here are some key songs, selected by Ameen, to get us in the mood for Yardie.

King Tubby – Roots Of Dub (1975)

This is my favourite one. Roots of Dub is all I listened to in Jamaica when I was preparing for Yardie. It takes me right back.

My family is half Jamaican and half Vincentian. I decided to go and live in Jamaica for two and a half months, that is how important this film was to me. A chance like this doesn’t come along very often, so it is vital the film reflects who we are – and it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with my family’s language.

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D is still in me a little bit. When I finish with promoting this film, I am going to go back there for a month to commemorate D. I’ll go over there and bury him.

Horace Andy – Natty Dread A Weh She Want (1980)

I’m a natty dredd in the film, so it is a song I would play to Shantol [Jackson, who plays Yvonne in Yardie]. It is fun.

When she got the job, I sent her a big bouquet of flowers and said I would love if you would come on this process with me, where we write letters in character to each other.

We started writing letters for about six weeks or two months. We wrote letters to each other, so by the time we started, it didn’t feel alien, we had this relationship – and music was a big part of it too.

Carroll Thompson – Hopelessly In Love (1981)

I got big into Lovers Rock making this movie. That is another one of the songs for me and Shantol. This is a little bit later in the Lovers Rock history. I’m So Sorry was also on the playlist.

The film is is definitely a postcard to 1980s England. You could be a young white kid experiencing that Jamaican culture, that fusion of Ska and punk rock, it was the beginning of us, who we are now. I love it.

I feel like Jamaicans coming over here and bringing such a deep influence is greatly responsible for multicultural London.

Carlton And The Shoes – Love Me Forever (1976)

This song is from the dance scene at the beginning of the movie. I need to go to a party now. I’m in London until September so I’m going Carnival. I need to get my Guinness Punch!

Working on Yardie was a musical education for me – and the influence of the music from that era is everywhere. Grime is a fusion. It is a child or distant cousin of ragga, reggae, but mixed with that British garage sound. It is those two worlds coming together.

I feel like London is little Jamaica. It might not be every day you are hearing the exact Caribbean sounds any more, but when you are watching the new Afro-swing era, which is based on Jamaican dancehall music, or watching Kidulthood and what it has done by bringing loads of black British ebonics to the mainstream – you are listening to Jamaican culture.

You know, ‘Wha’gwan, we cool, yeah, everyting Criss?’ That is pure Jamaican. But ‘Wha gwan, Bruv?’ The Bruv is British. The Wha gwan is Jamaican. They had a baby.

  • Yardie is released on 31 August
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