Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes Unisex T-Shirt
Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
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Last Days of Left Eye
Lisa Nicole Lopes (May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002), better known by her stage name Left Eye, was an American rapper and singer. She was a member of the R&B girl group TLC, alongside Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. Besides rapping and singing backing vocals on TLC recordings, Lopes was one of the creative forces behind the group, receiving more co-writing credits than the other members. She also designed the outfits and staging for the group and contributed to the group’s image, album titles, artworks, and music videos. Through her work with TLC, Lopes won four Grammy Awards.
During her brief solo career, Lopes scored two US top 10 singles with “Not Tonight” and “U Know What’s Up“, as well as one UK number-one single with “Never Be the Same Again“, the latter a collaboration with Melanie C of the British girl group Spice Girls. She also produced another girl group, Blaque, who scored a platinum album and two US top 10 hits. Lopes remains the only member of TLC to have released a solo album.
On April 25, 2002, Lopes was killed in a car crash while organizing charity work in Honduras. She swerved off the road to avoid hitting another vehicle, and was thrown from her car. She was working on a documentary at the time of her death, which was released as The Last Days of Left Eye and aired on VH1 in May 2007.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes – The Block Party (Video Version)
In late 1990, having heard of an open casting call for a new girl group through her then-boyfriend, Lopes moved to Atlanta to audition. Originally starting as a female trio called 2nd Nature, the group was renamed TLC, derived from the first initials of its members at the time: Tionne Watkins, Lisa Lopes and Crystal Jones. Things did not work out with Jones, and TLC’s manager Perri “Pebbles” Reid brought in Damian Dame backup dancer Rozonda Thomas as a third member of the group. To preserve the band’s original name, Thomas needed a name starting with C, which is how she became “Chilli,” a name chosen by Lopes. Watkins became T-Boz, derived from the first letter of her first name and “Boz” (slang for “boss”). Lopes was renamed “Left Eye” after a compliment from New Edition member Michael Bivins who once told her he was attracted to her because of her left eye, which was more slanted than the right eye. Lopes emphasized her nickname by wearing a pair of glasses with the right lens covered by a condom in keeping with the group’s support of safe sex, wearing a black stripe under her left eye, and eventually getting her left eyebrow pierced.
The group arrived on the music scene in 1992 with the album Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. With four hit singles, it sold six million copies worldwide, leading to the group becoming a household name. Shortly afterwards, Lopes began dating Atlanta Falcons football player Andre Rison, and the two soon moved in together in Rison’s upscale double-story home. Their relationship was allegedly filled with violent moments, and Lopes filed an assault charge against Rison on September 2, 1993. Rison denied battering her. Lopes was also battling alcoholism at the time; having been a heavy drinker since the age of fifteen. After another fight between the couple in the early morning hours of June 9, 1994, Lopes tossed numerous pairs of Rison’s newly purchased shoes into a bathtub, doused them with lighter fluid, and lit them on fire. The fiberglass bathtub quickly melted and set the structural frame of the house on fire. Lopes and Rison had a fight previously because she caught Rison in bed with another woman. Lopes then threw numerous teddy bears Rison had bought her into the tub, doused them and lit them on fire. Rison then had to replace the marble tub with a fiberglass one, which melted when she set the shoes on fire and caused the house to go up in flames as well. Lopes was arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree arson; she was sentenced to five years of probation and a $10,000 fine. Rison eventually reconciled with Lopes, and they continued dating on and off for seven years.
Shortly after, CrazySexyCool was released, selling over 23 million copies worldwide. However, Lopes’ stint in rehab had led to her only having limited input in the writing and recording of the album. After the release of CrazySexyCool, Lopes was a featured artist for the first time on “How Do You Like It?” a song by Keith Sweat in 1994. Later in 1995, Lopes recorded a well-received verse to the rap version of “Freedom” of the soundtrack from the Black Panther-based docudrama Panther with fellow female hip hop artists such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Patra, Yo-Yo, Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Meshell Ndegeocello. In 1997, Lopes was featured on the remix to Lil’ Kim‘s “Not Tonight“, alongside Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez and Da Brat. The single earned all artists a nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 1998 Grammy Awards. TLC’s third album, FanMail, was released in 1999 and sold over 14 million copies worldwide. The album’s title was a tribute to TLC’s loyal fans and the sleeve contained the names of hundreds of them as a “thank you”.
During and after the release of FanMail, Lopes made it known to the press on multiple occasions that she felt that she was unable to express herself in TLC fully. Her contributions to songs had been reduced to periodic eight-bar raps, and there were several songs in which she had no vocals. Studio session singers such as Debra Killings often sang background vocals for the group’s songs, something Lopes also wanted to do on songs in which she did not rap. In the May 1999 issue of Vibe magazine, Lopes said, “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 response, 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 Watkins (T-Boz) and Rozonda 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 prize for the winner.
Watkins and Thomas declined to take up the challenge, 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”. TLC then addressed these struggles by saying that they are very much like sisters who have their disagreements every now and then as Lopes explained, “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.”
1998–2002: Solo career
In 1998, Lopes hosted the short-lived MTV series The Cut, in which a list of aspiring pop stars, rappers, and rock bands competed against each other in front of judges. The show’s winner, which ended up being a male-female rap duo named Silky, 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 ended up securing a record deal after Lopes and the show’s three judges were impressed by her performance.
Lopes created Left Eye Productions to discover new talent. She mentored 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 in their music video “808” and also rapped in their second music video “I Do“. Lopes was also developing and promoting another new band called Egypt. They worked with Lopes on her second album under her new nickname, N.I.N.A., meaning New Identity Not Applicable.
In 2000, Lopes became a featured rapper on several singles, including Spice Girl Melanie C‘s “Never Be the Same Again“, which topped the charts in 35 countries, including the United Kingdom. She was also featured on “U Know What’s Up“, the first single from Donell Jones‘ second album, Where I Wanna Be, and she rapped a verse in “Space Cowboy” with NSYNC on their 2000 album, No Strings Attached. On October 4, 2000, Lopes co-hosted the UK’s MOBO Awards with Trevor Nelson, where she also performed “U Know What’s Up” with Jones. She also collaborated on “Gimme Some” by Toni Braxton for her 2000 album The Heat. She had previously featured on Keith Sweat‘s song “How Do You Like It?”. In 2001, she appeared in a commercial for the fashion brand Gap. In July 2001, 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 the $125,000 question and won $32,000 for her charity. After her death in 2002, the episode she appeared in was shown in dedication to her.
In 2008, Lopes’ family opened UNI Studios, which she had created for the purpose of recording solo projects, to the public. Her brother Ronald is the general manager of the studio. Lopes had a dream of making new artists able to record music at a low cost, in a high-end studio at her house. Her family continues to operate it and fill it with new equipment.
Lopes spent much of her free time after the conclusion of TLC’s first headlining tour, the FanMail Tour, 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.
Other tracks covered other personal issues, including her tumultuous relationship with Rison. Among the album’s 13 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. Initially scheduled for release on a date to coincide with the 11th anniversary of her grandfather’s death, Arista Records decided to delay and then cancel the American release. The album was eventually released in August 2001 in different foreign countries. The Japan import includes a bonus track called “Friends”, which would later be sampled for “Give It to Me While It’s Hot” on TLC’s fourth album 3D.
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 Death Row Records in January 2002, intending to record a second solo album under the pseudonym “N.I.N.A.” (New Identity Not Applicable). She had discussions about recording with David Bowie for the project, whom she was also trying to get involved with the fourth TLC album. The project was also planned to include collaborations with Ray J along with close friend Missy Elliott. After Lopes’ death in April 2002, Death Row Records still had plans to complete and release the album (unfinished at the time of Lopes’ death) in October 2002, but the album was cancelled for unknown reasons. In 2011, some tracks from the album were uploaded onto YouTube featuring artists from Tha Row Records. Lopes’s unreleased songs were also sampled by TLC for their fourth album 3D after she died. Another track, “Too Street 4 T.V” (featuring Danny Boy), was released on the soundtrack to the 2003 film Dysfunktional Family.
2008: Posthumous honorary album
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 ‘Neva Will Eye Eva’ and “Crank It“, both feature and were co-produced by Lopes’ sister Raina “Reigndrop” Lopes. 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. The album largely consists of reworked versions of tracks from the Supernova album. 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. An unreleased track featuring Lopes was uploaded to SoundCloud on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of her death by Block Starz Music.
TLC – What About Your Friends (Official Video)
TLC – Creep (Official HD Video)
TLC – No Scrubs (Official Video)
TLC – Waterfalls (Official HD Video)
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