Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, the effervescent, sometimes volatile rapping member of the Grammy-winning trio TLC, was killed in a car crash in Honduras, her record company said early Friday.
Lopes, who would have turned 31 next month, was in the Central American nation for a vacation, Arista Records’ senior vice president of publicity Laura Swanson told The Associated Press. Lopes was reportedly among seven people in the car Thursday night and the only fatality.
“No words can possibly express the sorrow and sadness I feel for this most devastating loss,” said Arista president L.A. Reid, who helped shape the career of the Atlanta-based R&B group, one of the best-selling female groups in history.
“Lisa was not only a gifted and talented musical inspiration, but more importantly, she was like a daughter to me. My thoughts and prayers are with Lisa’s family and friends. Her legacy will be remembered forever.”
The location of the car crash was not immediately determined. It was unclear whether she was wearing a seatbelt.
TLC, which also includes Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, were the group behind such hits as “Waterfall,” “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty.” Their latest album was “FanMail.”
“We had all grown up together and were as close as a family,” the surviving bandmates said in a statement Friday. “Today we have truly lost our sister.”
The group made its debut in 1992 with the disc “Ooooooh… On the TLC Tip!” Their unique sound, which paired Watkins and Thomas’ vocals with Philadelphia-born Lopes’ fast-paced, squeaky-voiced rhymes, made them an immediate sensation, along with their baggy, condom-attached wardrobe.
Lopes’ nickname came from her habit of replacing one lens of her glasses with a condom during performances.
In 1994, the band returned with “CrazySexyCool” – Lopes was dubbed the “crazy” member of the group, Thomas the “sexy” one and Watkins the “cool” one. The quadruple platinum album saw the women abandon their sometimes gimmicky image to evolve into a critically acclaimed group. The disc included the No. 1 hit “Creep” and won them the first two of their four Grammy Awards.
The band also soon became know for its flashy, hyper videos and picked up a clutch of MTV Video awards. Lopes even served as a host for MTV’s daily show, “The Cut.”
But with success came enough turmoil to fill a VH1 “Behind the Music” special. The trio declared bankruptcy a few years ago, citing poorly structured recording contracts.
In 1994, Lopes pleaded guilty to arson in a fire that destroyed the mansion of former Atlanta Falcons receiver Andre Rison, her boyfriend. Lopes was sentenced to a halfway house and five years probation, plus a $10,000 fine.
Lopes admitted she started the fire after an argument with Rison. The mansion was valued at more than $1 million. The two later broke up, only to reunite and break up again. However, last year they announced plans to marry.
Watkins was hospitalized several times, suffering from sickle cell anemia and infighting among group members also was reported. In 2000, after the release of the triple-platinum disc “Fanmail,” Lopes publicly challenged Watkins and Thomas to put out solo albums, and let fans determine who was the most popular group member.
But in an interview with the AP later that year, Watkins dismissed talk of a serious rift.
“With three women, you agree to disagree. I’m not always going to agree with Lisa and she’s not always going to agree with me, that’s fine,” she said.
TLC had been on hiatus, but had recently been in the studio working on a new record due to have been released this year. Lopes had tried to release her own album last year called “Supernova”; It was released internationally by Arista, but poor radio support for the record caused the project to be shelved in the United States.
Within in past few months, Lopes reportedly signed a solo deal with Suge Knight’s Death Row label to put out a solo project under the pseudonym, “N.I.N.A.” (New Identity Not Applicable). She also helped start the group “Blaque,” an R&B trio who had the hit “Bring It Home To Me.”
Swanson said that Lopes went frequently to Honduras to vacation.
“She just found it really peaceful and tranquil, and it was a very special place for her,” she said.
Her manager has flown to Honduras to bring her body back to the United States, Swanson said.