Interview, Music, News

Jermaine Dupri: “Left Eye & Kris Kross Were The Original So So Def” and Regrets Not Signing TLC!

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The legendary hip-hop producer and So So Def founder Jermaine Dupri took part in T.I.‘s latest podcast episode of ExpidiTIously (April 2) to discuss his career from the very beginning of his early years in Atlanta.

Dupri touches on the moment Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes came into his life as a solo artist from Philadelphia, who had nowhere to stay, so she used to sleep in his closet which had been transformed into a vocal booth. JD had gotten himself a reputation as ‘the dude with all the studio equipment’, which attracted a lot of up and coming artists that were often introduced to him by music mogul Ian Burke.

Lisa and Jermaine began writing songs for Kris Kross, Dupri’s latest teenage rap duo he discovered in a shopping mall, comprised of Chris Smith and Chris Kelly. “Lisa was helping me write these songs [for Kris Kross], and we wrote this song called ‘The Girl Is Mine‘, where I sampled Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney“, JD recalls. “Chris and Chris were arguing over Left Eye, and she rapped to them. This was my mindset of the single. I was like, “This is it, this is the single. Two little boys arguing over this girl. She’s grown, ya’ll little. That concept didn’t work”. The duo weren’t feeling it so the song was scrapped.

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Chilli and Left Eye with DJ Dolemix on the TLC video set “Baby-Baby-Baby” in 1992

Lisa would sometimes even beg for money at the local airport. “She went to Hartsfield Airport every day and posed as one of them kids who needed money for a church to make money”, JD recalls. “She would come back to me and say, “Look at all this money that I got! I made the sign, they give me the money“. She would come back with $200, $400. She figured it out”.

Lisa expressed her creative ideas very early on as she inspired Jermaine to think outside of the box, which helped the fashion of Kris Kross. “She just wanted to make music. She could rap, I like her — mentally she could write. She was talking to me about concepts”, JD says. “I was very intrigued with the fact that she would come up with things that we should do — like, cut your eyebrows off! We had the parts in the eyebrow, and then I had three parts for like a month. I was like, what next? She would say shave the whole eyebrow off and just have one!”

“We’re in this room just trying to think of shit. That’s how the backwards jeans came about. Like, “JD, go get a nose ring, that shit is cold!“. Left Eye was the heartbeat of me trying to do things, her and my conversations and her and Chris and Chris’ conversations with her. In the end, that was the crew — Ian, Left Eye, Chris and Chris and Jermaine. We were the unstoppable team that didn’t have nothing — that was the first So So Def!”

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Left Eye with Xscape members Kandi and Tiny on the set of Xscape “Am I Dreaming” in 1998

A few days before the podcast was released, Jermaine shared an article on his Instagram (March 31) in which he declared his regrets at not taking TLC under his wings at the same time as Kris Kross. “I was only 19 years old at the time and didn’t believe in myself as a person, as someone having the bandwidth to have both artists”, he admits. “I was putting so much energy into Kris Kross, and I was only giving TLC maybe 30 to 40 percent, not even 50 percent”.

“I felt that I was spreading myself thin by trying to provide both of these groups with what they needed to become the successes that they eventually both grew to become”, he continues. “So I eliminated myself from TLC being a group that I actually introduced to the world”. In the meantime, an encounter with Pebbles at a hair salon Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins worked at led to TLC being signed to LaFace Records instead.

Although he wasn’t quite ready to sign TLC in the early 90’s, he continued to play a big role in their sound, producing on their first three studio albums, including favourites like “Switch”, “Kick Your Game”, “My Life” and “Bad By Myself“. Jermaine was also responsible for conditioning T-Boz to sing in her iconic lower register. “Tionne would sing high, and Tionne would sing low”, Lisa explained on MTV in 1995. “But when Tionne sang low, Jermaine called it scruffy and said that is dope, let that be you, your voice, what you’re known for”.

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T-Boz with Jermaine Dupri on the video set to TLC “Baby-Baby-Baby” in 1992

Despite Jermaine having some success with his first girl group Silk Tymes Leather (whose member Dyonna “Diamond X” Lewis went on to become DJ Dolemix for TLC in their early days), and his missing out on signing TLC led him to having luck in the third attempt at working with a girl group, when Ian Burke introduced him to Xscape, who sang at his birthday party and he vowed to sign them. They were the first act on his own label, So So Def, a joint venture with Sony and Columbia which also homed Da Brat, Jagged Edge, 3LW and Bow Wow.

Do you think TLC should have signed to Jermaine’s So So Def label?

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TLC with Teddy Riley, Kris Kross and Jermaine Dupri
Anniversary, Interview, Tribute

Melanie C Shares Her Time Working With Left Eye On Her First Solo Number One Record

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Mel C & Left Eye in 2000 (Credit: Ron Davis)

Melanie C aka Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls took the opportunity this week to celebrate her debut solo album, 1999’s ‘Northern Star‘, with the weekly pop podcast Track By Track to discuss the album in detail, track-by-track.

The year 2000 was a special time in music. TLC were on hiatus after the success of their mega-selling ‘FanMail‘ album and the record-breaking tour to support it, while the Spice Girls were also taking a break from world domination to focus on their solo projects.

Melanie C decided to team up with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes on her debut solo album, which led to Melanie earning her first solo number one single in the UK in the summer of 2000, an exciting time for both TLC and Spice Girls fans!

The single in question was “Never Be The Same Again“. Melanie C gave us some beautiful memories of her time working with Lisa around the time of the single being released.

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Melanie proudly states that the Spice Girls were huge fans of TLC. “I couldn’t believe my luck when I had the opportunity to work with [Lisa]. And she was perfect!”, Melanie exclaims.

Lisa was the only rapper Mel C wanted on the track with her. “She was the only person I wanted on that song. I was writing with Rhett Lawrence & we got to the middle 8 & all I could hear was a Lisa-style rap”, she recalls. “He gave her a call & next thing I knew she was on the track. So that was a wonderful experience”.

Melanie states that she shot the spiritual video with Lisa in Malibu, which features a scene with Lisa and Melanie performing tai chi moves together while Lisa lays down her iconic verse, once again proving why she was the perfect choice for the track.

Following the success of the single in March 2000, Melanie invited Lisa to promote the single with her in London for a couple of performances and interviews to help keep the track at number one for a second week!

At the time of the promotional run, Lisa told Top Of The Pops: Backstage how she felt about being part of the success with Melanie. “Now that we might be number one twice in a row, I feel like I’m running a marathon and I’m almost at the finish line!”, she says excitedly.

The solo recognition also meant a lot to Lisa, as she was seeking to launch her solo career in the UK. “It is important. I’m going to be coming back over here to do a solo project of mine, so it is always good to be recognised and especially if you can make that number one slot”.

Lisa and Mel C also stopped by at BBC Radio One, where Lisa further discusses her need to have her voice heard solo. “I’ve always wanted to do a solo album. I am an emcee, and I love TLC — but I’m very limited to the amount of work that I can actually do. It’s usually a few songs, 16 bars here and there, and I like to really strut my stuff.”

“But as far as the rumors, we’re fine. We haven’t broken up. We went through a little something last year, but it’s not the first time that we’ve been through something, it’s just the first time that it was publicized”, Lisa explains.

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“The issues that have existed?”, Lisa continues,  “personal differences when it comes to business decisions and the direction that we move forward in. It’s one group, with three different people with three different visions, so which direction do we go in?”.

Mel C co-signs with Lisa about the struggles of being in a group. “We have earned the right to yell at each other”, Lisa jests. “You spend so much time together that you become like sisters”, Mel adds. “And no matter what’s said you still love each other. You iron out your differences and you sort it out”.

“Never Be The Same Again” will always be special to Mel C, not just because it blessed her with her first number one, but because Lisa was a part of it with her. “This will always be a very important song to me, obviously being my first UK No. 1 and really launching the whole album to new heights, but also sadly losing Lisa was so tragic, she was so young and such a huge talent, so I feel very lucky I was able to work with her and we have this piece of music, that we worked on together, forever”.

Melanie eventually got the chance to meet the rest of TLC in 2018 at the Mighty Hoopla in London, 19 years since she first worked with Lisa. Fans can always live in hope that the two biggest girl groups in history unite one day on tour. Lisa would have loved the idea.

Melanie C’s new single, “Who I Am“, is out now.
News, Relationships, Television, Tribute

Hopelessly In Love: TLC’s Left Eye & Andre Rison (2020)

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Lifetime television premiered their limited 3-part docu-series ‘Hopelessly In Love‘ on January 4, 2020. The series details the ups and downs of the relationships between Anna-Nicole Smith and Larry Birkhead, Biggie Smalls and Faith Evans, and the opening episode focused on Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Andre Rison.

The episode spoke to the friends and family of both Andre and Lisa, including his mother Merdice Brown-Coleman and sister Raquel, and Lisa’s sister Reigndrop Lopes, mother Wanda Lopes-Colemon, and close friends Trena Smith, cousin Tangi Foreman and previously unseen footage released by her family.

Andre himself confessed that he “was deeply in love” with Lisa. “It was dope,” he said. “She came by the house and pretty much never left.”

As you’ll recall, Lisa accidentally burned down Andre’s mansion during a falling out between the two. Despite that, the two still had love for one another and planned to get married sometime in the early 2000’s, though Lisa eventually called the wedding off, much to Andre’s devastation.

The docu-series reveals details of two miscarriages that Lisa had sadly experienced during her time with Andre, and rumors of an alleged spell of voodoo Lisa placed on Andre, something her family vehemently deny. “Lisa did not practice voodoo”, Reigndrop clarifies.

Lisa’s love for 2pac is also scrutinized as a major reason as to why her relationship with Andre became so troubled. 2pac and Andre were close friends, he wasn’t aware that Lisa already had feelings for 2pac when he met her in a club back in the 90’s. Andre later admits that it was hard for him to shake off his trust issues.

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Both Trena and Suge Knight admit that Lisa had strong feelings for 2pac, which was mutual. 2pac wanted to be with her in the long-term, so refused to be intimate with her.

“They slept in the same bed together. We stopped over at ‘Pac’s house. They never was intimate, though”, Trena confirms. “He was like her soul mate. Lisa loved 2Pac, but Andre wasn’t going nowhere”.

What did you think of ‘Hopelessly In Love’?

Watch the full episode HERE
Announcement, Appearance, Interview, Tribute

Family of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes Reveal One-of-a-Kind Modern Headstone

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The family of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes officially unveiled the brand new headstone that they have commissioned for the beloved TLC star on November 9, along with the creator Tim Morris aka Cemetery Tim, responsible for the recent Eazy-E headstone.

Siblings Reigndrop and Ronald Lopes and mother Wanda Lopes-Coleman unveiled the masterpiece in Zillah, Washington at an exclusive free public event, open to all of her fans that were able to attend and witness the creation with her family.

The all-new headstone features some one-of-a-kind designs and modern features to complement the stunning colors and smooth finish. Explaining some of the headstones finer details, Tim said, “This is a bronze marker, it’s mounted to the full ledger which is granite. It has brilliant impressions”.

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Wanda and Reigndrop feel the 3D image of Lisa

Tim goes on to explain how he has included the lyrics to her original “Waterfalls” rap, just as it was present on her original headstone, as well as a preserved copy of her autograph, her foundation official logo, special words and photos of the family with Lisa and it even features a QR code, which fans can scan and find out more information about the Lisa Lopes Foundation.

The main photo of Lisa in the center of the headstone, which was photographed by director Hype Williams in Honduras, is in fact 3D. “It’s three dimensional, so you can actually feel Left Eye”, Tim explains. “You can feel her hands, her body and her lips. It’s definitely one-of-a-kind”.

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Reigndrop kisses her sister’s newly-created headstone

Tim met Lisa’s family through an email earlier this year, he told Yakima Herald. “They wanted to see some of my work and I sent them some drawings of projects that I was working on. They liked what they saw and asked me to create a one-of-a-kind [headstone] for Lisa”, he said.

We know Lisa is up there smiling right now.

Watch the highlights from the unveiling below!