Today marks the 15th anniversary of the passing of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (Apr. 25), we are remembering the superstar not only for her skills on the mic, but for her confidence, personality, and charitable efforts.
The most flamboyant member of the award-winning, multi-platinum contemporary R&B trio TLC, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes is a singer and rapper who died tragically in 2002 at age 30. In addition to the chart-topping TLC hits “Creep,” “Waterfalls,” “No Scrubs,” and “Unpretty,” she released a solo album, Supernova (2001), overseas shortly before her untimely death. Born Lisa Lopes on May 27, 1971, in Philadelphia, PA, she moved to Atlanta, GA, in 1990 and co-founded TLC shortly thereafter. Upon signing to LaFace Records, the Atlanta-based label of R&B hitmakers Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, TLC recorded their full-length album debut with producers Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and Marley Marl, in addition to Babyface and Reid. The resulting album, Ooooooohhh…. On the TLC Tip (1992), was a break-out hit that spawned a few Top Ten hits (“Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” “What About Your Friends,” “Baby-Baby-Baby”) representative of the trio’s early style, informed by new jack swing as well as hip-hop.
From the get-go, Lopes was the most flamboyant member of TLC. In early promotional appearances she famously covered the left eye of her glasses with an unwrapped condom, and she was likewise well known for her oversized hats, colorful clothing, and numerous tattoos. Moreover, in the wake of TLC’s break-out success, Lopes began dating football star Andre Rison, a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. The relationship was volatile and took a fateful turn on June 9, 1994, when Lopes put a bunch of Rison’s shoes in a bathtub, set them aflame in a fit of vengefulness, and unintentionally burned down his mansion in the process. She was consequently sentenced to five years of probation and a stint in rehab.
CrazySexyCool Later in the year, following the well-publicized arson incident, TLC released their second album, CrazySexyCool (1994), a tremendously successful effort that found them leaving their early new jack swing style behind in favor of a smoother, sexier contemporary R&B style that would prove highly influential in subsequent years. Produced again by Babyface, Austin, and Dupri, CrazySexyCool spawned several Top Five hits (“Creep,” “Red Light Special,” “Waterfalls,” “Diggin’ on You”), went 11-times platinum in the U.S., and won all kinds of awards, including a couple Grammys and four MTV Video Music Awards. Third album FanMail (1999), once again produced by Babyface, Austin, and Dupri, was similarly successful, spawning the chart-topping hits “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty.”