It has been 17 years since TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes left us on 25th April 2002. Well-known for her ‘crazy’, fun-loving personality, the quirky rapper is still painfully missed to this day.
Only two days away from her 31st birthday, Lopes unfortunately met with a tragic accident in Honduras while trying to avoid a truck. The car rolled several times and crashed into two trees, throwing Lopes (who was driving) and three of her friends out of the windows, but she was the only one who did not make it. A recording of the moment leading to the incident was captured by a friend by the passenger seat. The world mourned the passing of Left Eye and her incredible mark in the music industry.
Together with her group members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, TLC gave us so many iconic hits in the ‘90s. The group’s brand of R&B-meets hip hop made them stand out from their counterparts such as En Vogue, Xscape, SWV and many others. The group debuted with a bang in 1992 when their debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip was released under LaFace Records, churning out hits like “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, “Baby-Baby-Baby” and “What About Your Friends”. Left Eye even delivered a cheeky verse in “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” with “Yeah, I like it when you (kiss sound) both sets of lips/ Oooooh on the TLC tip”.
Back them, TLC was also known for wearing condoms as accessories (Left Eye would even wear an unopened condom packet on the left eye of her glasses). In an interview with Teen Vogue, member Chilli said that it was Left Eye who pinned a condom to her pants after finding it in the studio, and it became their signature. T-Boz said, “Some parents thought we were telling their kids to have sex. But we were making a fashion statement to make it easier to talk about sex.” It was a very bold move and it spoke loudly during a time when HIV was such a taboo to discuss, but TLC stepped up as role models to get conversations going.
By the time their sophomore album CrazySexyCool was released, Left Eye was donning a black stripe under her left eye, and that became her new signature while delivering very important rap verses on “Waterfalls”, “Switch” and “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes”. Left Eye’s verses on “Waterfalls” have become one of the most iconic moments in music, striking the nail right on the head with lyrics like “My only bleeding hope is for the folk who can’t cope/ With such an endurin’ pain that it keeps ‘em in the pourin’ rain/ Who’s to blame for tooting ‘caine into your own vein/ What a shame, you shoot and aim for someone else’s brain”. Whether about abuse or sex, TLC always came through as role models with their lyrics as they were aware of their responsibilities as artists for their fans.
Left Eye began switching up her rap style by the time TLC’s third album Fanmail was released by giving us a powerful yet befuddling verse of “So, let me give you somethin’ to think about/ Inundate your mind with intentions to turn you out/ Can’t forget the focus on the picture in front of me/ You as clear as DVD on digital TV screen/ Satisfy my appetite with something spectacular/ Check your vernacular” on the smash hit “No Scrubs”. When the world lost Left Eye, TLC was at the height of their career after the release of their smash album Fanmail and their North America tour.
Lopes had also gone on to do some solo projects before that, but they were not as successful as she was in a group. She released her solo album titled Supernova in 2001, as well as collaborating with a slew of artists like Lil’ Kim, Donnell Jones, Melanie C, Method Man, Keith Sweat, Mya, Toni Braxton and Blaque. Just as much as she needed T-Boz and Chilli, the group needed her as well. TLC fizzled after losing their very distinct member Left Eye, but continue to use the group name and have images of Left Eye on screen during their performances these days.
The world still mourns Left Eye’s honest wit, incredible stage presence and great rhymes. It has been 17 years, but her legacy will never be forgotten as an individual with an outspoken personality that made her who she was.
We end this post with a quote by Lopes, “I have always been a very spiritual woman, I think we all have different heavens. Mine will probably be me re-living my life over.”
Cover Image: last.fm
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
Kevin was the former editor and writer of various platforms who enjoys listening to '90's R&B to K-Pop music.