Jailed entertainers can remain relevant, producer says

March 30, 2021
Tommy Lee Sparta
Tommy Lee Sparta
Vybz Kartel is serving a life sentence for murder but remains popular.
Vybz Kartel is serving a life sentence for murder but remains popular.

While insisting that being incarcerated is never a good thing for an artiste, record producer Sean Edwards believes that "an entertainer's status in the local landscape is as good as his or her fan base, especially after being charged with criminal offence."

"The fan base that's present when an artiste is given jail time will stay with them. But it's also based on the charge. Those who do gangster music and garnered the attention of fans, if they get locked up on a gun charge or even murder, it may increase their following and sales. But that's not to say it's a good thing," Edwards told THE STAR. He was speaking primarily about the recent sentencing of dancehall artiste Tommy Lee Sparta who is to serve three years on gun and ammunition charges.

"It (incarceration) limits the impact they can make, their careers and most importantly their income during a time like now, when most of them are depending on dubplate sessions. The artistes miss out," he said. But Edwards said that much also depends on the teams that the incarcerated artistes have on the outside "keeping them viable and visible, releasing new music or content on social media even while they are locked up".

He suggested that a lack of education influences the decisions local entertainers make. He also posited that the company artistes' keep plays a role.

"Many artistes are trying to align themselves with dons and gangsters when they should be trying to have better influences around them. We need to see more of them making a change to be leaders, being the ones that lead the people around them to help them make a change in their lives," he said.

A day after Tommy Lee Sparta's sentence, his collaboration with emerging female act Cashan and Mexican dancehall artiste Jah Fabio titled Elegante debuted on the iTunes Top Reggae Songs list. But Edwards was quick to point out that the success was not due to his legal troubles. Edwards revealed that he co-produced the project with Boss Lady Muzik, who manages Tommy Lee Sparta, originally intending on targeting the Latin market which accounts for close to 25 per cent of Spotify's global users. On Spotify, Tommy Lee Sparta has attracted 151,028 monthly listeners. His single Psycho, which was released seven years ago, and the two-year-old track Blessings have acquired the most streams with more than four million and three million, respectively.

Edwards noted that he has been working with Boss Lady Muzik to market and promote the deejay's music and to re-brand him from the 'Uncle Demon' character he initially used and that people feared.

"We see a difference in how people consume his music. It brought him back into mainstream radio in Jamaica," Edwards said.

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