TOMMY LEE SPARTA
Leroy J. Russell
Leroy “Junior” Russell was born on November 4th, 1987, better known by his stage name TOMMY LEE SPARTA, is a Jamaican Gothic Dancehall artist from Montego Bay, Jamaica. In December 2018 he signed a contract with Boss Lady Muzik as his official management and record label and has since released many hit records such as Undervibes, Protocol, Hard Ears, Rich Badness to name a few. He has been a controversial figure in dancehall due to his self-described “Gothic Dancehall” style.
He 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 group. Tommy Lee Sparta, however, was reluctant to leave his family and neighborhood, and declined the offer.
According to Tommy Lee Sparta, it wasn’t until his performance at Vybz Kartel’s Birthday Bash on January 7, 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.”Warn Dem,” released in November 2010, was Tommy Lee Sparta’s first recognized hit, based on a instrumental by Da Wiz, his original producer from Snipa Studios. 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, produced by Jamie Young of YVP Records. 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.
“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. 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.
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.
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. In response, Tommy Lee Sparta released remixes for his songs “Psycho” and “Some Bwoy” with altered lyrics paying tribute to the Jamaican sprinters.