Lisa Lopes PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2008 08:35


Lisa Nicole Lopes aka Left Eye

Born: May 27, 1971  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: April 25, 2002 La Ceiba, Atlántida, Honduras

Age: 30

Cause of death: Car accident

Special mention: Wrote and sang 'No Scrubs'.


Lopes contributed her own self-written raps to many of TLC's popular singles, including "Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs". Lopes was also a self-taught keyboardist and displayed those talents during her solo spot on TLC's headlining concert performances. She was also known for wearing a pair of glasses with a condom in place of the left eye lens in the beginning of her career, which was one of the ways the group promoted safe sex.

TLC began life as a female trio called Second Nature. The group evolved into TLC - the letters of the band made up of the first initials of the three members - Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. Things didn't work out with Crystal, and TLC's manager Perri "Pebbles" Reid brought in her back up dancer, Rozonda Thomas as a third member of the group. To keep the "initial" theme of the band's name, Rozonda needed a name starting with C, so she took on the nickname Chilli. Fellow bandmate Tionne Watkins became T-Boz, while Lopes renamed herself Left Eye, as she had once been told she had beautiful eyes, "particularly the left eye." Left Eye celebrated her nickname by wearing glasses with a condom over her left eye (also a promotion for safe sex), later evolving to a black stripe under the eye.

The group appeared on the scene in 1992 with the album Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip. With three hit singles, it sold 6 million copies worldwide and TLC became household names. After a few years' break, TLC came back with CrazySexyCool, selling over 15 million copies worldwide and cementing TLC as one of the biggest female groups of all time. TLC's third album Fanmail was released in 1999 and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The album's title was a tribute to TLC's loyal fans. The album's sleeve contained the names of hundreds of fans as a thank you to everyone who supported them.

During the recording of Fanmail, a public conflict began between the three members of the group. Lopes sent a message to Vibe magazine saying, "I've graduated from this era. I cannot stand 100 percent behind this TLC project and the music that is supposed to represent me." In response to Lopes' comments, Watkins and Thomas stated to Entertainment Weekly that Lopes "doesn't respect the whole group" and "Left Eye is only concerned with Left Eye". In turn, Lopes sent a letter to Entertainment Weekly issuing a challenge to Watkins and Thomas to release solo albums and let the public decide who was the greatest member of TLC:

I challenge Tionne 'Player' Watkins (T-Boz) and Rozonda 'Hater' Thomas (Chilli) to an album entitled "The Challenge"... a 3-CD set that contains three solo albums. Each [album]... will be due to the record label by October 1, 2000...I also challenge Dallas 'The Manipulator' Austin to produce all of the material and do it at a fraction of his normal rate. As I think about it, I'm sure LaFace would not mind throwing in a $1.5 million dollar prize for the winner.

T-Boz and Chilli declined to take up the "Challenge", though Lopes always maintained she thought it was a great idea. Things were heated between the girls for some time, with Thomas speaking out against Lopes, calling her antics "selfish", "evil", and "heartless".

After Fanmail, Lopes began to expand her solo career. She became a featured rapper on several singles, including former Spice Girl Melanie C's "Never Be the Same Again", which went to #1 in 35 countries, including the UK. She was also featured on the first single from Donell Jones' second album, entitled "U Know What's Up", and she sang "Space Cowboy" with *NSYNC on their 2000 album No Strings Attached. Lopes also collaborated on "Gimme Some" by Toni Braxton from her 2000 release The Heat. In 2001 she appeared in two commercials for The Gap, one solo and the other with India.Arie, Liz Phair, and Sheryl Crow, where she was featured singing, instead of rapping, for the first time alone.

Lopes was also the host of the short-lived MTV series, The Cut, a precursor to American Idol in which a handful of would-be pop stars, rappers, and rock bands competed against each other and were judged. The show's winner, which ended up being a male-female rap duo, was promised a record deal and funding to produce a music video, which would then enter MTV's heavy rotation. A then-unknown Anastacia finished in third place, but so impressed Lopes and the show's three judges, that she scored a record deal as well. About nine months before her death, Lopes appeared on the singers' edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire along with Joey McIntyre, Tyrese, Nick Lachey, and Lee Ann Womack. She dropped from a $125,000 question and won $32,000 for charity. A year later, in 2002, the episode of her drop was shown and was dedicated to her.

Lopes created "Left Eye Productions" to discover new talent. She helped the R&B trio Blaque to secure a record deal with Columbia Records. Their self-titled debut album was executive-produced by Lopes, who also made a cameo appearance on the album and in their music video "I Do". Lopes was also developing another new band called Egypt.

Lopes spent much of her free time after the conclusion of TLC's first headlining tour behind Fanmail recording her debut album, Supernova. It includes a song titled "A New Star is Born" is dedicated to her late father. She told MTV News:

That track is dedicated to all those that have loved ones that have passed away. It's saying that there is no such thing as death. We can call it transforming for a lack of better words, but as scientists would say, 'Every atom that was once a star is now in you.' It's in your body. So in the song I pretty much go along with that idea. ... I don't care what happens or what people think about death, it doesn't matter. We all share the same space."

Other tracks covered personal issues including her relationship with Rison. Amongst the album's 12 tracks was a posthumous duet with Tupac Shakur that was assembled from the large cache of unreleased recordings done prior to his murder in 1996. The unreleased song "Left Pimpin" was sampled for the song "Quickie", which is featured on TLC's fourth album, 3D. Initially scheduled for release on a date to coincide with the 10th anniversary of her father's passing, Supernova was then delayed for two months before her American label chose to shelve the project. The album was eventually released outside of the United States, and hardcore American TLC fans caused a demand for import copies of the album from the UK and Japan.

After numerous talks with Death Row Records CEO, Suge Knight, Lopes severed her solo deal with Arista Records (she remained contracted with the label as a member of TLC) and signed with Knight's Tha Row Records, intending to record a second solo album under the pseudonym N.I.N.A. (New Identity Not Applicable). N.I.N.A. was to include several songs recorded by and with Ray J.

Lopes was often vocal about her personal life and difficult past. She readily admitted she had come from an abusive, alcoholic background and suffered with alcohol problems herself. These problems became headline news in 1994, when she set fire to her boyfriend Andre Rison's tennis shoes, which ultimately set fire to the mansion and burned it to the ground. She claimed "I was just trying to barbecue his tennis shoes," as revenge for his infidelity and abuse, and the fire got out of control.

Rison, a football player for the Atlanta Falcons, was allegedly physically abusive to Lopes and had been charged with assaulting her the previous year. Lopes, who was sentenced to 5 years probation and therapy at a halfway house, never was able to shake that incident from her reputation. Her tumultuous relationship with Rison continued to make headlines, with rumors of an imminent wedding, which were later debunked by People magazine.

Adding to Lopes' flamboyant attitude, she had several large tattoos. Most prominent was a large eagle on her left arm which she said represented freedom. Later she added the number "80" around the eagle, which was Rison's NFL number. She also tattooed a moon with a face on her foot in reference to Rison's nickname, Bad Moon. On her right arm was the name Parron, for her late stepbrother, and a tattoo of a heart. Her smallest tattoo was on her left ear and consisted of an arrow pointing to her left over the symbol of an eye, a reference to her nickname.

Lopes had already started work on both her second solo album and on songs for the fourth TLC album, 3D, when she was killed in a car accident in La Ceiba, Honduras on April 25, 2002. She was the sole fatality of eight people in the vehicle, a Mitsubishi Pajero that she was driving. The vehicle rolled several times, throwing Lisa out of the window. She died from severe head injuries. Lopes' mother Wanda later tried to sue Mitsubishi Motors, as the Pajero was prone to rollovers, according to a 2001 Consumer Reports review.

Her funeral was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia. Over 30,000 fans came from all over the world to bid her farewell. Engraved upon her white casket was her rap from "Waterfalls": "Dreams are hopeless aspirations, in hopes of coming true, believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you." Lopes was buried at Hillandale Memorial Gardens, in Lithonia, Georgia.

In a statement to MTV, producer Jermaine Dupri remembered Lopes:

"She was determined to be something in life. She was a true Hip-Hop star. She didn't care about no press. She was the star out of the group. She was the one that would curse on TV. She had the tattoos. You could expect the unexpected. When you see Lisa, you could expect something from her. That's the gift she carried."

The controversy over autopsy photos which had been leaked following her death led to a protest by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt painted a stripe next to the left headlight decal on his #8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway to protest the display of her autopsy photos. A similar controversy befell Earnhardt after the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. a year earlier.

A documentary on the final 26 days of Lopes' life, entitled The Last Days of Left Eye premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival in April 2007, for an audience that included many of Lopes contemporaries, such as Monica, Ronnie DeVoe of New Edition, 112, Big Boi, Rico Wade, India.Arie, and Cee-Lo. VH1 and VH1 Soul broadcasted the documentary on May 19, 2007. Much of the footage was shot with a hand-held camera, often in the form of diary entries filmed by Lopes while on a 30 day spiritual retreat in Honduras with family and members of the R&B group Egypt. In these entries she reflected on her personal life and career. The high-energy performer revealed a calmer side, with interests in numerology and yoga. She was in the process of setting up an educational center for Honduran children on 80 acres of land she owned.

Coincidentally, the film also captured a car accident that she was involved in during filming, which killed a Honduran child with the surname Lopez. She was not the driver of the vehicle. Lopes is shown in a local funeral home choosing a casket for the child. In the documentary, Lopes mentioned that she feels the presence of an "evil spirit" following her. The program also showed the last minutes of Lopes' life, including her swerving off the road.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 16:02

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