Tommy Lee Sparta

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Tommy Lee Sparta
Birth name Leroy Russell
Also known as Tommy Lee, Uncle Demon, Captain Sparta
Born (1987-11-04) 4 November 1987 (age 30)
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Genres Dancehall, reggae fusion
Occupation(s) Deejay, singer, lyricist
Years active 2008 – present
Labels Da Wiz/Snipa (2008-2010)
Adidjahiem (2010-2012)
PG13 (2012-present)
Associated acts Vybz Kartel, Popcaan, Masicka, Vershon, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Govana

Leroy "Junior" Russell (born 4 November 1987), better known by his stage names Tommy Lee and more recently Tommy Lee Sparta, is a Jamaican dancehall artist from Montego Bay, Jamaica.[1] Tommy Lee Sparta gained popularity as a member of Adidjahiem Records and the associated Portmore Empire crew under the leadership of Vybz Kartel.[2] He has been a controversial figure in dancehall due to his self-described "Gothic Dancehall" style, which often features dark and Satanist-inspired subject matter.[3] As of now he has left the Portmore Empire.

Career[edit]

Tommy Lee Sparta began deejaying in late 2008 at Snipa Studios in Flanker, where he recorded his first song, "Spartan Story." During this time, he performed as an opening act for local shows, including several from Portmore artist Vybz Kartel. Kartel, noticing that the artist was receiving positive responses from the crowd, invited him to move to Kingston and become a part of the Portmore Empire, Kartel's music crew. Tommy Lee Sparta, however, was reluctant to leave his family and neighborhood, and declined the offer.[4]

According to Tommy Lee Sparta, it wasn't until his performance at Vybz Kartel's Birthday Bash on 7 January 2010 that he decided to take the idea of being a musician seriously, and he soon accepted the offer to become an official member of the Portmore Empire together with the gaza team.[5] "Warn Dem," released in November 2010, was Tommy Lee Sparta's first recognized hit, based on a riddim by Da Wiz, his original producer from Snipa Studios.[6] The accompanying music video, directed by Dk Konsepp, was also a first for the artist.

Tommy Lee Sparta's breakthrough hit came with "Some Bwoy (Link Pon Wi Chain)" on the 2011 So Bad Riddim.[7] However, it wasn't until well after Kartel's arrest and the release of the music video in 2012, under new management from Junior "Heavy-D" Fraser, that the single gained traction. The single worked its way to the number one spot of many of Jamaica's informal music charts, including Pree Dis and Entertainment Report, and the video was in heavy rotation on Caribbean stations such as RETV, Hype TV, and Tempo Networks.[8] "Some Bwoy," along with follow-up singles such as "Psycho," "Buss a Blank," and "Shook (Uncle Demon)," gave Tommy Lee Sparta significant exposure locally, and in 2012 he was a headlining artist for both Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay and the Sting music festival in Portmore.[9][10][11]

In May 2012, Adidjahiem Records was shut down, citing the legal issues of owner Vybz Kartel and lack of ability to represent/promote artists as reasons for the closure. Along with former labelmate Gaza Slim, Tommy Lee Sparta started a new label called PG13, which would be run by himself until Vybz Kartel was released from jail. The label's roster notably omits Popcaan, the other major labelmate at Adidjaheim.[12][13]

In September 2012, Tommy Lee announced that he would be changing his stage name to Tommy Lee Sparta for trademark purposes, and to differentiate himself from Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and actor Tommy Lee Jones. The element "Sparta" was derived from an informal name given to the part of Flankers where he grew up. The move was suggested by his lawyer as a way to thwart potential copycat musicians from impersonating the artist.[14]

Usain Bolt, Warren Weir and several other Jamaican sprinters have stated their appreciation of Tommy Lee Sparta and Adidjahiem Records, going so far as to flash the hand sign for the clique popularized by Tommy Lee Sparta after Jamaica won all three medals at the men's 200 metres in the 2012 Summer Olympics.[15][16] In response, Tommy Lee Sparta released remixes for his songs "Psycho" and "Some Bwoy" with altered lyrics paying tribute to the Jamaican sprinters.[17]

Bounty Killer feud[edit]

In September 2012, a feud formed between Tommy Lee Sparta and Alliance leader Bounty Killer over a series of Twitter posts that were perceived as an insult to Tommy Lee Sparta. One such message from Bounty Killer on 8 September said, "Christmas is 4 christ so nuh demon or devil cyaah win we a bloodclaat all a dem a dead a sting!!!"[18] This was widely believed to be a reference to Tommy Lee Sparta's "Uncle Demon" persona and a threat against the artist regarding the upcoming Sting music festival on Boxing Day. Bounty Killer, however, denied that the tweet was directed towards Tommy Lee Sparta, stating that the message was against the devil and not any artist in particular. Tommy Lee Sparta said of the slight that he had great respect for the artist as an elder dancehall musician, and that as the statement was probably made to garner publicity, he would not respond with any disrespect.[19][20]

However, just a little over a week later, Tommy Lee Sparta released the music video for a new diss track directed towards Bounty Killer entitled "Goat Head." Bounty Killer responded the next month with two diss songs of his own, "Di Gaad" and "Nyammy Lee." As a result of the growing feud, the two artists were slated to clash at the 2012 Sting music festival, with Bounty Killer comparing the matchup as equivalent to "a giant and an ant."[20] However, when Sting's lead promoter, Isaiah Laing, implied that Tommy Lee Sparta might have a chance of defeating the veteran artist, Bounty Killer saw the remark as an insult and cancelled his performance. During Tommy Lee Sparta's performance at Sting, he expressed his support and respect for Bounty Killer, and both artists have since stated they consider the feud to be over.[21][22]

Personal life[edit]

Russell was born in 1987 and grew up in Flankers, an unofficial residential community located just east of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. He has 4 sisters and an older brother. One sister, Denise Baker, lives in Allentown, PA with her husband Kirk Baker,[citation needed] Russell's older cousin Andrew Henry and his five children: Darion "Deejay" Henry, the eldest, Donovan "Popatime" Henry and Gerard Henry.
Russell obtained an American Visa in June 2014. Tommy Lee Sparta says that he only "pree music" in his 2013 sting performance.
He describes his upbringing as difficult, having lost his father at the age of 9.[9] Russell attended Anchovy High School in the nearby town of Anchovy. He had his first child at the age of 14 while he was in eighth grade by his high school sweetheart, Donna who was then in the eleventh grade.[3]

In February 2014 he was charged along with four others in connection with a lottery scam.[23]

Discography[edit]

Extended plays[edit]

  • 2012: "Pussy Mechanic" (UIM Records)
  • 2012: "Gal Gimme Wine" (UIM Records)
  • 2012: Psycho (Tad's Record Inc)
  • 2012: Grim Reaper (UIM Records)[1]
  • 2013: Save Dem Soul (Da Wiz Records)
  • 2013: "Bun Nu Nu " (UIM Records)
  • 2012: Some Bwoy (Young Vibez Production)
  • 2013: Spartan Soulja (UIM Records)[1]
  • 2014: "Dream" (UIM Records)
  • 2015: "Big Bike" (UIM Records)
  • 2015: "Rebirth" (UIM Records)
  • 2017: "Diamond Blessings" (UIM Records)
  • 2018: "New Creator" (Ricardo Gowe Records)

LPs[edit]

  • 2013: Uncle Demon - LP (Guzu Musiq)
  • 2013: Sparta Boss - LP (Guzu Musiq)

Features[edit]

  • 2016 "Evil" (Bonez Mc & RAF Camora feat. Tommy Lee Sparta)
  • 2017 "Scotch Bonnet" (Ramriddlz feat. Tommy Lee Sparta)
  • 2017 "Crossover" (Sean Kingston feat. Tommy Lee Sparta)

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Serwer, Jesse (2 October 2012). "GEN F: Tommy Lee". The Fader. The Fader, Inc. (82). Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Morgan, Simone (3 June 2012). "Tommy Lee's mixtape to drop this summer". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b goege, Kingston (7 July 2012). Interview with Winford Williams. OnStage
  4. ^ Snoop Lion; Andy Capper; Codine Williams; Trevor Silmser (5 February 2013). "Tommy Lee Sparta". Noisey Jamaica. Episode 3. Vice. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Russell, Leroy (8 September 2012). Interview with Joel "Kruddy" Harrison. Pree Dis: Episode 100. Tempo Networks
  6. ^ Campbell, Curtis (9 November 2011). "Tommy Lee Sparta happy with career". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Curtis (18 January 2013). "Tommy Lee eyes int'l market". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Tommy Lee, Khago to headline Ochi Seafood Festival August 6". North Coast Times. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Tommy Lee with 'bare' badness". Jamaica Observer. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  10. ^ Walters, Basil (21 September 2012). "Tommy Lee to headline Sting". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Frater, Adrian (21 July 2012). "Dancehall Night Brings Out A Galaxy Of Stars". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Henry, Davina (24 May 2012). "Portmore Empire is no more". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  13. ^ Russell, Leroy (15 June 2012). Interview with Young Lion. Dancehall M1X with Young Lion. BBC Radio 1Xtra
  14. ^ Henry, Davina (28 September 2012). "Tommy Lee trademarks name". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  15. ^ McLean, Roxroy (18 August 2009). "'Gaza mi seh' - Usain Bolt says Vybz Kartel is his favourite artiste". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  16. ^ Williams, Sheldon (11 August 2012). "Gaza sign a hit at Olympics". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  17. ^ "Tommy Lee and Bolt Psycho, reincarnated Snoop and Bugle". North Coast Times. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  18. ^ Price, Rodney (8 September 2012). "Tweet by @GrungGaadZillA". Twitter. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  19. ^ Campbell, Curtis (11 September 2012). "Bounty lashes out at Tommy Lee - Others also voice concern about demonic songs". Jamaica Star. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Price, Rodney (8 December 2012). Interview with Winford Williams. OnStage
  21. ^ Price, Rodney (Jan 2012). Interview with Dj Bones and K'shema Francis. Entertainment Buzz. IRIE FM
  22. ^ Super K Studios (16 December 2012). Celebz. Episode 1. BOJ TV. 
  23. ^ "Jamaican dancehall deejay arrested in lottery scam",Miami Herald, 15 February 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014 (archived from the original)