Tribute Sundayz – R.I.P To All The Fallen Legends – Left Eye

Lisa Lopes

Background information

Birth name – Lisa Nicole Lopes
Also known as – Left Eye,[1] N.I.N.A.,[2] Crazy, L
Born – May 27, 1971
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died – April 25, 2002 (aged 30)
La Ceiba, Atlántida, Honduras
Genres – Hip hop, R&B, dance
Occupations – Rapper, singer-songwriter, dancer
Years active – 1990–2002
Labels – LaFace (1991–2001)
Arista (2001–2002)
Death Row (2001–2002)
Associated acts – TLC, Tionne Watkins,
Rozonda Thomas, Blaque,
Missy Elliott, Melanie C,
Tupac Shakur, Method Man,
Lil’ Kim, Angie Martinez,
Da Brat, Toni Braxton

Website – LisaLopesFoundation.org
L
isa Nicole Lopes (May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002), better known by her stage name, Left Eye, was an American rapper, dancer, and singer-songwriter. She is best known as a member of the R&B/hip-hop group TLC. Lopes contributed her self-written raps to many of TLC’s hit singles, including “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, “What About Your Friends”, “Hat 2 da Back”, “No Scrubs”, “Waterfalls”, and “Girl Talk”. Lopes won four Grammy Awards for her work with TLC.[3]

On April 25, 2002, Lopes was killed in a car crash in La Ceiba, Honduras. She was the driver of the vehicle when she rolled off the road and was thrown out; she died from her injuries. The last month of her life was filmed from March 30, 2002 until her death on April 25, including the accident which took her life; later the footage was made into a documentary called The Last Days of Left Eye.

Career

TLC
Main article: TLC (band)

TLC started off as a female trio called Second Nature. The group was renamed TLC — derived from the first initials of its then three members — Tionne, Lisa and Crystal. Things did not work out with Crystal Jones, and TLC’s manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid brought in Damian Dame backup 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, and so became Chilli, which was coined by Lopes. Band mate Tionne Watkins became T-Boz, while Lopes was renamed Left Eye. Lopes celebrated her nickname by wearing a black mark; often a wrapped condom, in keeping with the group’s promotion of safe sex[4]–later evolving to a black stripe under the eye, and then an eyebrow ring in her left eyebrow.[5]

The group arrived on the scene in 1992 with the album Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. With four singles, it sold six million copies worldwide and TLC became a household name. 1994 saw the release of CrazySexyCool, which sold over fifteen million copies worldwide and cemented TLC as one of the biggest female groups of all time. TLC’s third album, FanMail, was released in 1999 and sold over ten million copies worldwide. Its title was a tribute to TLC’s loyal fans and the sleeve contained the names of hundreds of them as a “thank you” to supporters.[6]

During the recording of FanMail, a public conflict began amongst the 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.”[7] 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 reply through 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.[8]”
T-Boz and Chilli declined to take up the “Challenge,”[9] though Lopes always maintained it was a great idea. Things were heated between the ladies for some time, with Thomas speaking out against Lopes, calling her antics “selfish”, “evil”, and “heartless.”[10] TLC then addressed these fights by saying that they are very much like sisters that have their disagreements every now and then as Lisa stated, “It’s deeper than a working relationship. We have feelings for each other, which is why we get so mad at each other. I usually say that you cannot hate someone unless you love them. So, we love each other. That’s the problem.”

Solo work

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 topped the charts in thirty five countries, including the United Kingdom.[11] She was also featured on the first single from Donell Jones’ second album, “U Know What’s Up”, and she sang “Space Cowboy” with ‘N Sync on their 2000 album, No Strings Attached. In September 2000 she co hosted the MOBO Awards in the UK alongside Trevor Nelson, where she also performed “U Know Whats’s Up” with Donnell Jones. Lopes also collaborated on “Gimme Some” by Toni Braxton from her 2000 release The Heat. In 2001 she appeared in two commercials for Gap Inc.. 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 too scored a record deal. 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 Ejypt. They worked on her second album under her new nickname, N.I.N.A, meaning New Identity Not Applicable.[12]

Supernova

Main article: Supernova (Lisa Lopes album)

Lopes spent much of her free time after the conclusion of TLC’s first headlining tour supporting Fanmail recording her debut solo album, “Supernova”. It includes a song titled “A New Star is Born”, which 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.”[13]”
Other tracks covered personal issues, including her relationship with NFL football player Andre Rison. In 1994, Lopes famously burned down Rison’s Atlanta mansion, resulting in the loss of all his possessions. Among the album’s twelve tracks was also 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 tenth anniversary of her father’s death, Arista Records decided to delay, then cancel the American release. The album was eventually released between 2001 and 2003 in various foreign territories.

N.I.N.A.

After numerous talks with Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, Lopes severed her solo deal with Arista (despite remaining signed to 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). She was recording with David Bowie for the project, who she was also trying to get involved with the fourth TLC album. The project was also to include several songs recorded by and with Ray J along with close friend Missy Elliott.[14][15] The album was cancelled after Lopes’s death in April 2002. In 2010, An unofficial remix album to Supernova was released online featuring artists from Tha Row Records.

Eye Legacy, Forever… The EP
Main article: Eye Legacy
In 2008, Lopes’ family decided to work with producers at Surefire Music Group to create a posthumous album in her honor, “Eye Legacy”. Originally set to be released October 28, 2008, the release date was pushed back to November 11, then to January 27, 2009. The song “Crank It”, which features Lopes’s sister Reigndrop, was released as a promotional single. The first official single from the album, “Let’s Just Do It”, was released on January 13, 2009 and features Missy Elliott and TLC. The second official single, “Block Party”, features Lil Mama and Clyde McKnight. The album largely consisted of reworked versions of tracks from the Supernova album.

Main article: Forever… The EP
In November 2009, “Forever… the EP” was released which contained international bonus tracks not used on the Eye Legacy album. The EP was only available to download.

Fantasies

An unreleased track featuring Lopes was released on the Internet, on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of her death by Block Starz Music. A portion of the proceeds from the song “Fantasies”, which features rapper Bootleg of The Dayton Family, will go to the Lisa Lopes Foundation.

Personal life

Lopes was often vocal about her personal life and difficult past. She readily admitted that she had come from an abusive, alcoholic background and struggled with alcohol problems herself. These problems became headline news in 1994, when she set fire to Andre Rison’s tennis shoes in a bathtub, which ultimately spread to the mansion they shared, destroying it. Lopes claimed that Rison had beaten her after a night out, and she set fire to his shoes to get back at him. Lopes later revealed that she did not have a lot of freedom within the relationship and was abused mentally and physically, having released all her frustrations on the night of the fire.[16]

Lopes, who was sentenced to five years probation and therapy at a halfway house, was never able to shake the incident from her reputation. Her relationship with Rison continued to make headlines, with rumors of an imminent wedding, later debunked by People magazine.[17] Lopes revealed on The Last Days of Left Eye documentary that her meeting with a struggling mother in rehab left a big impression on her. She subsequently adopted the woman’s 8-year-old daughter. Ten years previously, she had adopted a 12-year-old boy.[18]

Lopes 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 while in Atlanta.[19] She also had a tattoo of a moon with a face on her foot in reference to Rison’s nickname, Bad Moon. On her upper right arm was a large tattoo of the name Parron, for her late stepbrother who died in a boating accident, arching over a large tattoo of a pierced 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.[20]

Charity

Lopes started the Lisa Lopes Foundation, a charitable group dedicated to providing neglected and abandoned youth with the resources necessary to increase their quality of life. Her spiritual motto is the one that she used for her foundation: “Energy never dies…It just transforms.” Her foundation went into various underdeveloped villages and gave away brand new clothes to needy children and their families.

Death

On April 25, 2002 in La Ceiba, Honduras, while driving a rented Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Lisa Lopes swerved to the right slightly then again to the left as she tried to avoid a collision with another vehicle that was in her lane ahead of her,(its not clear as to the direction of travel of the other vehicle at the time of the accident). The vehicle rolled several times after hitting two trees, throwing Lopes and three others out of the windows. She died of neck injuries and severe head trauma,[19] and was the only person fatally injured in the accident. Raina Lopes was in the front passenger seat was videotaping at the time, so the last seconds leading up to the swerve that resulted in the fatal accident were recorded on video.

Her funeral was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia on May 2, 2002.[21] Thousands of people attended her funeral. Engraved upon her casket were the lyrics to her portion of “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.[22]

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 cared about some press. She was the star out of the group. She was the one who would curse on TV. She had the tattoos. You could not expect the expected. When you see Lisa, you could expect something from her. That is the gift she carried.[13]

Controversy over leaked autopsy photos led to a protest by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr.[23] In response, Earnhardt, Jr. and his DEI teammates Michael Waltrip and Steve Park painted a single black stripe next to the left headlight decals of their Chevrolet Monte Carlos for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway to protest about the display of her autopsy photos. A similar controversy had befallen Earnhardt, Jr. himself after his father’s death in the Daytona 500 a year earlier.[24]

A documentary on the final twenty-six days of Lopes’s life, titled The Last Days of Left Eye, premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival in April 2007, for an audience that included many of Lopes’s contemporaries, including Monica, Ronnie DeVoe, 112, Big Boi, India.Arie, and Cee-Lo.[16]VH1 and VH1 Soul broadcast 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.[25] In these entries, she reflected on her personal life and career. A calmer side of her personality was on display, showing interests in numerology and yoga. She was in the process of setting up an educational center for Honduran children on 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land she owned.[26]

The film also captured a car accident in which Lopes was a passenger and her assistant was the driver: “It was dark when the car driven by Lopes’s assistant left the village. It is commonplace for people to walk the roads that wind through Honduras, and it’s often difficult to see pedestrians.”[27] “Ten-year-old Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez walked into the path of the van driven by Lopes’ personal assistant. The child had been trailing after his sisters and brothers and stepped off the median strip at the last minute.”[28] The boy was hit. “Lopes’ party stopped and found the boy critically injured. They loaded him into the car, and Lisa cradled the dying boy’s bleeding head in her arms. Someone gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as they rushed him to a nearby hospital.” Lopez died the next day and Lopes paid for his medical expenses and funeral.[29] Lopes is shown in a local funeral home choosing a casket for the child. Earlier in the documentary, Lopes mentioned that she felt the presence of a “spirit” following her, and was struck by the fact that the child killed in the accident shared her last name, even thinking that the spirit may have made a mistake by taking his life instead of hers.” While her assistant was never charged with any wrongdoing, Lopes later compensated the family for their loss.”[29] The program also showed the last minutes of Lopes’s life, including her swerving off the road.[16]

Lopes’s UNI Studios

In 1998, Lopes created the UNI Studios for the purpose of recording solo projects.[30] Lopes’s family opened the studio to the public.[31] So far, her brother Ronald Lopes is the general manager of the studio. Lisa had a dream of making new artists able to record music at a low price, in a high-end studio at her house. Lisa’s family continues to operate it and fill it with new equipment.

Discography

Main articles: Lisa Lopes discography and TLC discography

Studio albums

2001: Supernova
2002: N.I.N.A.

Compilations
2009: Eye Legacy

Extended plays

2009: Forever… The EP

2013: Reigndrops In My Lefteye (with sister Reigndrop Lopes)

Red Everything Movement

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