15 years, 15 flows: Remembering Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes tragically passed away in a car accident in Honduras, 15 years ago today, on April 25, 2002 – just one month before her 31st birthday. It was of course a heartbreaking loss for her family and friends, and an especially gut-wrenching loss for fans and the music industry. Just a few months prior, another young star, Aaliyah, passed on far too soon as well. One third of girl-group TLC, Lopes was a one-of-a-kind artist whose presence in and outside of TLC has indeed been irreplaceable.

As the L in TLC, Left-Eye was the group’s driving creative force. Despite not being featured on a fraction of the group’s songs, her creative presence was essential in defining TLC’s sound, look, concepts and lyrical themes. It’s no surprise, then, that the group’s best songs are those which prominently feature Lisa’s genius rap skills. Not only that, but she is still the only TLC member to release a solo album, 2001’s Supernova, and did a number of features with other artists, as well.

Left Eye was always my favorite member of TLC, and it broke my heart the day she died. I remember coming home from school, turning on MTV, and sitting on the floor watching the news scroll across the television. I immediately began to cry. She was such a creative inspiration to me; I had started writing songs and poetry around that time and Left Eye was one of my main inspirations. In fact, I even wrote a song dedicated to her that sampled lyrics from TLC’s “I Miss You So Much.”

I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorite Left Eye musical moments. While it was hard to narrow it down, I wish she was still with us making music so that I had even more of a lengthy catalogue to struggle with (I’ve left out her solo work, because it isn’t on any streaming service, and it deserves a in-depth dive of its own). I hope you enjoy and celebrate the life and talents of TLC’s self-proclaimed Crazy one.

 

Ooooooohhh... on the TLC Tip

TLC debuted in 1992 with the release of their debut set, Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip. It was their most evenly distributed work, and Left Eye makes more appearances on this album than any of their others. The songs are very organic and Left Eye’s flows are very old school Hip-Hop, showcasing her raw lyrical skill, and signature silliness.

1. “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” – TLC’s debut single found Left Eye helming the infectious hook, rapping about penis, condoms and sex; a favorite pastime of hers.
Favorite lyric: “Left Eye don’t mean the rest of my body is irrelevant”

2. “What About Your Friends” – Left Eye’s impact is felt on this groove that strays away from the topic of sex or love to touch on something more serious, as TLC often did: loyalty in friendships. Left Eye delivers a signature flow that’s instantly memorable.
Favorite lyric: “They dog me out then be next to me/ Just cause I am what some choose to envy”

3. “This is How It Should Be Done” – This song is one of the rare occasions where Left Eye is at the lead of a TLC song and she delivers, riding the Marley Marl produced beat effortlessly to showcase her lyrical prowess. Indeed, “This is How It Should Be Done.”
Favorite lyric: “We three alike all small in height but I’m Left Eye/ Cause the eye is right”

CrazySexyCool

For most of the recording of CrazySexyCool, Left Eye was, well, a little busy – but I won’t go there. Perhaps for that reason, perhaps out of a lack of fucks to give, Left Eye is largely absent from the album. However, she still managed to deliver some shining and even iconic moments:

4. “Kick Your Game” – This is one of my favorite TLC tracks for its creative inclusion of Left Eye into the song. She turns the song into what would’ve been the perfect music video, as she voices a playa in the club who’s trying to kick some game. As she raps, she switches back and forth between herself and her suitor.
Favorite lyric: “I’m just a nigga that followed you to the coat rack”

5. “Waterfalls” – If anyone knows ONE Left Eye rap by heart, it’s going to be her lengthy deliverance on TLC’s signature song, “Waterfalls.” Her hyper-speed, literally-breath-taking flow is iconic for it’s difficulty, message and, simply, being fun to rap-a-long to.
Favorite lyric: “My only bleeding hope is for the folk who can’t cope with such an enduring pain that it keeps them in the pouring rain.”

6. “Switch” – Lisa’s flow on this track is one of my favorites, because it’s fucking hilarious and fun. It exemplifies exactly why she was called the Crazy one and just MAKES the song, stealing the show.
Favorite lyric: “Erase, replace, embrace, new face!” 

7. “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes” – By featuring Outkast’s André 3000, CrazySexyCool’s album closer is an iconic moment in 90’s hip-hop, combining one of it’s best male lyricists with one of the best females. Left Eye’s verse on this track showcases her evolution into an intricate and thought provoking lyricist that would become more apparent later in her career, especially on her solo work.
Favorite lyric: “My mishap is the fact that I’m destined to snap”

Ladies Night @ the 1997 VMAs

Ladies Night @ the 1997 VMAs: Lisa, Angie, Kim, Brat, Missy

8. “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” – In, you guessed it, 1997, Left Eye appeared alongside Lil’ Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez for an all-star remix of Lil’ Kim’s “Not Tonight.” Perhaps the most epic moment in female hip-hop history, it was a beautiful and rare celebration of sisterhood in the hip-hop community. Surely, there would be no “Lady Marmalade” without this one. Left Eye, of course, holds her own among these other hip-hop heavyweights (and Angie Martinez).
Favorite lyric: “Lay another finger on this big bad wolf miss lady rap singer/ I be the one to blame as the flames keep risin/ To the top and it don’t stop”

TLC's FanMail album cover

TLC returned after a five year hiatus with 1999’s FanMail. Once again plagued with some sisterly drama, FanMail found Lisa on about half of the album’s tracks. My favorites, of course, feature her:

9. “No Scrubs” – A close second as far as TLC’s signature songs go, “No Scrubs” was ubiquitous in 1999. Left Eye wasted no time in elevating what would’ve been your otherwise typical R&B crossover hit to include some futuristic vibes and equally advanced vocabulary on her verse.
Favorite lyric: “Let me give you something to think about/ Inundate your mind with intentions to turn you out.”

10. “I’m Good at Being Bad” – No doubt inspired by the structure of Janet Jackson’s “What About,” this unsuspectingly vicious, hard-hitting track would be sorely lacking without Left Eye’s contribution. Unquestionably the group’s baddest song, it also sports one of Left Eye’s most mind-fucking flows. The way she slices up syllables is ingenious.
Favorite lyric: “The epitome of your every dream, it seems to ‘fein/ For intangible fantasy, you know what I mean?”

Lisa in the "U Know What's Up" video

Following FanMail, Left Eye set her eyes on a solo career and began doing more features. The quality and success of some of these features showed promise for her solo career. Unfortunately, label drama and ultimately her death hindered her solo rise.

11. “U Know What’s Up” – Featured on Donell Jones’ breakout single, Left Eye scored her first big hit outside of TLC and for good reason. Released in 1999, the track became an anthem and Left Eye’s verse was crucial to making the song as good as it is.
Favorite lyric: “Expound by leaps, and soul to reap, our souls to keep/ The passion’s deep, and filled with heat”

12. “Gimme Some” – Labelmate Toni Braxton enlisted Left Eye on a should’ve been single from her 2000 album, The Heat. Left Eye doesn’t disappoint, delivering a fierce rap to go along with one of Toni’s more sassy songs.
Favorite lyric: “See, I’ve been waiting for the planets to realign/ Total eclipse on my lips until the end of time”

13. “Takin’ Me Over” – Who knew Left Eye and Mya were besties? From this song, it sure sounds like they were pretty good friends. Or, at least, that’s what the song’s lyrics leads one to believe. Lisa begins the song by coercing Mya to come out for the night, eventually finishing off the song with a hilarious verse. On Mya’s 2003 album Moodring, she recorded a touching ode to both Lisa and Aaliyah entitled “After the Rain,” reinforcing their friendship.

TLC's last album, 3D

TLC’s final album to feature newly recorded input from Lisa, 3D, was released several months after her death. Only two of the songs included were recorded by Lisa with the intention of being included on the set. The other songs to feature her actually take their verses from her solo recordings.

14. “Girl Talk” – The group’s last lead single, “Girl Talk” was classic TLC fare that recalled their debut single “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” though, at 30, the subject matter seemed a little immature considering their age. Regardless, Left Eye’s rap is infectious and the best part of the song. As one of the last verses she recorded before her death, it is certainly notable.
Favorite lyric: “You’ll remember me, Left Eye, TLC/ You got to lick it before you stick it and that’s just me”

15. “Over Me” – Recycled from “I Believe In Me,” a song from Lisa’s solo album Supernova, it’s TLC’s best use of a reused Left Eye verse. It actually makes logical sense within the context of the song, more or less. I’ve included it because the song is a bop and Left Eye’s flow is equally hard hitting. However, if you can find the original track from which her verse is taken, please do take a listen. It’s way better in its actual context.
Favorite lyric: “I don’t need the stress/ I don’t need the pain/ I do need the checks/ But don’t need the games”

Listen to the playlist below:

1 Comment

  1. Sharla Benedetto

    April 25, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Great article! Well written and thought out <3

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