Reggae Sumfest 2023: Tommy Lee Sparta Says Prison Was The Best Thing To Happen To Him

It was like a homecoming parade for Tommy Lee Sparta when he returned to the Reggae Sumfest stage at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay, St. James, at daybreak this morning. 

The highlight of his 30-minute performance was an intimate reflection on his recent experience with incarceration. Sparta noted that prison had a positive impact on his mindset and he also commented on how Vybz Kartel, the imprisoned ‘King of Dancehall’, was similarly contemplative while serving his life sentence for murder.

“…Horizon warden, mi respect unuh! Wah day me and [Vybz] Kartel, we have a ting called recreation weh we go down deh go play football more while—a di only time sun touch mi… Wah day me and Kartel ah reason him ova deh suh [and] me ova yah suh fence off and di dawg ah seh, ‘Tommy Lee, when my youth a baby mi deh a prison and now dem have baby’…mi ah seh God know dawg, it rough in deh,” he said.

Tommy Lee Sparta, Reggae Sumfest 2023

Tommy Lee Sparta added, “All mi can tell fi youths dem, yuh see prison, if unuh can do anything fi stay far from it—stay far from prison. Mi nuh regret guh deh ‘cause guess wah? Ah di best two year ah my life. Mi get time fi pree and find time fi mi family; find time fi mi self. Mi used to have all 15 girl one time, now it come like girl…mi get corrupt! Now it’s just like mi ease offa di girl ting.”

Sparta explained that prison allowed him to reconsider his lifestyle, which had been rife with unhealthy choices and drug use.

“Mi used to ah tek one heap ah drugs and dem ting deh and a pop pill and ova do it and mi come offa mi addiction and nuff ting. Suh, mi glad fi di like break. Ah God mek it happen suh. And mi wah seh respect to di police dem wah kinda give me a chance fi perform and understand seh youth can change. Nuff ah di youth dem wah change but dem nuh really get di chance.”

Sparta has had several run-ins with the law over the years but managed to avoid significant jail time until March 2021, when he was sentenced to three years for possessing an illegal gun and two years for possessing illegal ammunition.

The sentences ran concurrently and included the time served from when he was arrested for the crime in December 2020. He was released early on March 23 this year.

He got the whole crowd rocking when he was called out at 6:00 a.m. 

If you were tired, the deafening screams would have definitely given you a boost of adrenaline. It was almost like an earthquake when he echoed his infamous “Spartan!” to which his thousands of supporters responded, “Boom!”

For those who thought he looked “fat” for someone just coming out of prison, he revealed that he actually has a hernia, which occurs when an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall. He was, however, not daunted by that and did his best to render some of his most popular songs. 

Night one also saw commendable sets from Masicka, Teejay, Shane O and Bayka. The last one, however, found himself in hot water for ladening his set with expletives. It is uncertain what his sanction/s will be.

Tonight will see sets from Minister Marion Hall, Kabaka Pyramid, Romain Virgo, Richie Spice and more. 

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