9 years ago, we lost Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes
When I say “we”, I mean humanity, music, Atlanta, and everything in between.
The thing I will always love about her and TLC is the fact that each member was so different and, ultimately, were equals in the group. Although T-Boz’s raspy voice often shone through the most prominently, by no means were Chilli and Left-Eye her back-ups. In addition to simply having better music, that’s what ultimately separates them from the Destiny’s Childs of the world.
I’ve always had a special love for Left-Eye, and there’s a story behind why.
With the exception of my cousin’s cassettes I would borrow and the few random CD Singles my mom would let me have, the extent to my music knowledge at a very early age was from the radio. This would be radio to and from school, to and from sports games, to and from errands, etc. Regardless, the only station my mom really tolerated was Kiss 104.7 (Tom Joyner). Not sure if they still operate by the same rules today, but back when I was 6,7,8,9 years old, they vocally stood by the claim that they did not play rap.
We’re talking about ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96 when rap was beginning to permeate itself into every realm of popular culture. One of these realms was R&B and during these years, Kiss 104.7 had a decision to make when it came to the music they played.
They either don’t play the wildly popular Mariah Carey song, for example, with the rap verse in it, because it contains a rap verse, OR they play the song, but censor the song by cutting out the rap verse or having it be an instrumental section for the duration of the rap part.
They typically took option 2, which killed me, because often times these rap verses were the high points of these songs. Left-Eye’s TLC rap verses fell into the censored category, which made pre-teen me want nothing more than to find out what she was actually saying and learn every single word.
3 songs in Left Eye’s TLC rap catalog were especially cut out from the radio versions and these 3 songs have verses that I’ll be able to rattle off 50, 60, 70 years from now. (What you’re about to read isn’t copying and pasting. This is just me, making sure I’m still sharp with my lyrics.)
What About Your Friends — 1992
Well is it me or can it be I’m a little too
Friendly so to speak hypothetically
Say I supply creativity to what others
Must take as a form of self-hate
Only to make an enemy
Which results in unfortunate destiny
They dog me out
and then be next to me
Just cause I am what some choose to envy
Waterfalls — 1995
I seen a rainbow yesterday
But too many storms have come and gone
Leaving a trace of not one God given ray
Is it because my life is ten shades of grey
I pray all ten fade away
Seldom praise him for the sunny days.
And like his promise is true
Only my faith can undo
The many chances I blew
To bring my life to a new
Clear blue and unconditional skies
Have dried the tears from my eyes
onemore lonely cries
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
Who’s to blame for shooting ‘caine into you’re own vein
What a shame you shoot and aim for someone else’s brain
You claim the insane and name this day in time
For falling prey to crime
I say the system got you victim to your own mind
Dreams are hopeless aspirations
In hopes of coming true
Believe in yourself
The rest is up to me and you
No Scrubs — 1999
See, if you cant spacially expand my horizons,
Then that leaves you in a class with scrubs, never rising.
I dont find it surprising if you dont have the g’s
To please me and bounce from here to the coast of over seas
So, let me give you something 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 are as clear as DVDs on digital TV screens
Satisfy my appetite with somthing spectacular
Check your vernacular
Then I’ll get back to ya
With diamond like precision
Insatiable is what i envision
Can detect acquisition
From your friend’s expedition
Mister Big Willy, if you really want to know
Ask Chilli could I be a silly ho?
Not really, T-Boz and all my senoritas
Are steppin on your Filas
But you dont hear me no.
Discussions of female rappers are as old as the genre, but have intensified recently with the rise of Nicki Minaj. In the same sense that Lauryn Hill is often a forgotten “female rapper” because she can do other things outside of rapping (like be crazy, be late, be rude), Left Eye, too, is a lost female rapper. Those three verses, in addition to a few others (I’m Good at Being Bad, Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, Lil Kim’s Not Tonight), remind me that she 1) was a beast and 2) would rap circles around the majority of women and men currently topping the charts.
Rest in Peace, Ms. Lopes.
p.s. I will always love Alicia Keys for setting this up. Her song into SWV into En Vogue into “Waterfalls” is 7 minutes of perfect.