Left Eye Biography
Left Eye Biography
Lisa Nicole Lopes (May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002), also known under the stage name of "Left Eye", was an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress of Cape Verdean descent, and member of the popular R&B and hip hop group TLC. In addition to hit songs like "Waterfalls" with TLC, Lopes also did some solo performing. She was considered by some fans as the creative talent behind TLC and 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, by way of a Beethoven piano piece, displayed those talents during her solo spot on TLC's headlining concert performances (featured in a pay-per-view broadcast of TLC's FanMail Tour in the spring of 2000). She was known for wearing a pair of glasses with a condom in place of the left eye lens, 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 Lisa renamed herself Left Eye, as she had once been told she had beautiful eyes, "particularly the left one." 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 came out in (1999) and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Lopes said she got the idea for the album's title as 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.
Lopes was of Cape Verdean descent. 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 fiance Andre Rison's mansion and burned it to the ground. She claimed that she was only trying to burn Andre's new tennis shoes as revenge for his infidelity, and the fire got out of control. However, she was unremorseful for the incident and described the mansion as a "House of Evil." Rison, a football player for the Atlanta Falcons, was physically abusive to Lisa and had been charged with assaulting her the previous year. At the time of her arrest, she was covered in bruises from being beaten by Rison. Lopes, who was sentenced to 5 years probation and therapy at a halfway house, never was able to shake that incident from her reputation. Lopes always maintained good humour about the incident, asking during a concert "Anyone got a light? Anyone got a house?" Along with her TLC band mates, Lopes filed for bankruptcy that same year claiming poor royalties and an outstanding debt owed to Perri "Pebbles" Reid after she sued the group for breach of contract.
Lopes frequently disagreed with those around her and found herself in conflicts with the people she worked with, including the other members of TLC. During the recording of Fanmail, Lopes was quoted as 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." She also issued a challenge to Tionne and Rozonda 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 T-Boz and Chilli also speaking out against Lopes, calling her "selfish," "abusive" and "evil." But ultimately, the friendship and sisterly bonds between the three could not be broken, and they were able to mend their relationship both in and out of the group. They reunited for Fanmail, and even went on tour.
After Fanmail (1999), Lopes began to expand her solo career. She became a featured rapper on several singles by other musicians, including former Spice Girl Melanie C's "Never Be the Same Again", which went to #1 in 35 countries, including the UK. They performed the song live on "Top of the Pops" the week it went #1. The song was co-written and produced by Rhett Lawrence. She was also featured on the first single from Donell Jones' second album, entitled "U Know What's Up", sang "Space Cowboy" with *NSYNC, a song from their 2000 album No Strings Attached and was featured on "Gimme Some" by Toni Braxton from her The Heat album published in 2000. In 2001 she appeared in a Gap Commercial, one solo and the other wih India.Arie, Liz Phair, and Sheryl Crow, 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 final 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 herself a record deal anyway. A year before her death, Lisa Lopes appeared on a singer's edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire along with Joey McIntyre, Tyrese, Nick Lachey and Lee Ann Wolmack. From her winnings she changed her charitable donation from $125,000 to $32,000.
Lopes began expanding her career by creating "Left Eye Productions" and discovering new talent. She helped create the R&B trio Blaque and helped them 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 one of their music videos, "I Do". Group member Natina Reed's rapping style was heavily influenced by Lisa's early work. She was also developing a new band called Egypt.
Lopes spent much of her free time after the conclusion of TLC's first headline tour behind Fanmail recording her first solo album, Supernova. 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 Tha Row Records (The short lived new name for Death 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. The album Supernova features a song titled 'A New Star Is Born' is dedicated to her late father, and many more extremely personal tracks including one about her relationship with Andre.
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 Honduras on April 25, 2002. She was the sole victim of eight people in the vehicle (a Mitsubishi Pajero). The vehicle rolled several times, throwing Lisa out of the window. She died from severe head injuries. Lisa's mother Wanda later tried to sue Mitsubishi Motors, as the Pajero was prone to rollovers. She was thirty years old when she died.
Lopes had been in Honduras doing missionary work. She was in the process of setting up education for Honduran children, while also volunteering at a children's center. It is said by those close to her that she had been undergoing a spiritual epiphany and had recently ended a month-long fast prior to her death. Her funeral was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia. Over 30,000 fans came from all over the world to farewell their hero. Lopes was buried at Hillandale, also in Lithonia.
The controversy over autopsy photos which had been leaked following her death led to a protest by former boyfriend and 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 Lisa Lopes titled, The Last Days of Left Eye premiered May 19, 2007 on VH1 and VH1 Soul. The program features Lopes driving and swerving off the road, moments before she died.