Think you know who Lisa Left-Eye Lopes is? Well think again. Sure, youve seen her in magazines and music videos, and heard her voice on countless hits, but do you really know what makes this woman tick? As the star of TLC, Lisas aggressive on-point rapping and singing helped the Atlanta-based threesome sell more than 20 million records, but shes never been a paint-by-the-numbers artist. And with her new solo debut, Supernova, Lisa emerges as a formidable and complex new voice. One quick listen to Supernova and its obvious Lisa has done her maths carefully.
A Supernova is a rare star that increases in brightness up to a billion times at any given moment. And Lisas breakthrough performances on blazing new tracks like Hot (produced by Rockwilder) and the Salaam Remi-produced The Block Party will quickly attest to the accuracy of the albums title. Nor was Supernovas symbolic release date in the US, August 16th 2001, chosen randomly. August 16th was the day Lisas father passed away and it was the same day his father was born. It is also, in a sense, the day a new star was born: with Supernova, Lisa Left-eye Lopes steps boldy out on her own.
Numerology plays a big part in Lisas new emergence, and shes skillfully integrated the complex theory of numbers into every aspect of Supernova. For example, the CD comes with a puzzle Lisa designed which turns into a twelve-sided ball, with each side referring to one of the albums twelve tracks. "Its a game called Eyenetics" Lisa says. "When you roll the ball, it instructs you to play a song on the CD, because every song on the CD has some type of message. And each number has some meaning. For example, one means individuality, two means cooperation, three means enthusiasm, four means working hard, five means variety, six means responsibility, and so on".
The music is just as deep, as Lisa explains the meaning of the albums first track, Life is a Park: "In a park you have merry-go-rounds and see-saws. So when I say Life is like a park - it goes in circles, it goes up and down. And just like when you go to a park to play, you may fall, but you have to get back up. Its a big playground, really". As the song begins, we hear Lisa calmly intoning the biggest question anyone can ask: "What is life?" to which she replies, "To live, to believe, to love, to receive". As the songs beat kicks in, Lisa tears full-force into a terse rap: "Woman abused - its never too late to choose who youre supposed to become. Make the choice that helps you sleep at night".
In Hot Lisa describes herself as "a borderline genius" commanding us to "imagine Einstein in Carmen Jones body". When asked to explain, Lisa chuckles and says, "Well, they say that theres a thin line between genius and insanity! And I always get labeled as being the crazy one, which doesnt bother me at all, but there are a lot of things about me that people dont know that they will soon learn about me".
Indeed, even longtime fans of Lisas career with TLC will find theres a lot to discover about the often-written about but rarely understood artist. In the song Let Me Live Lisa sings, "Twist the story all around, make me misunderstood". With a laugh, Lisa explains: "Ive been misquoted plenty of times. I mean, Ive been misquoted by the media; Ive been misquoted by my group members; and people who are on the outside looking in have taken everything theyve seen of TLC and painted theyre own little picture, which is a little twisted. People meet me all the time, and the first thing they say is, Wow, youre so different than what the media paints, or Youre so different from what I expected. I get that every time someone meets me. That is a result of my story being twisted, whether it be from the person whos telling it, or from the person who is receiving it. Its been twisted".
The untwisted story goes like this: she was born Lisa Nicole Lopes in Philadelphia, PA, May 27, 1971 to Wanda D. Lopes and Ronald E. Lopes. Her father played drums, clarinet, saxophone, harmonica, and piano, exposing Lisa early on to a wide range of musical influences. Her dads Army career also meant that Lisa got the chance to meet people from cross section of cultures and social scenes, which may explain why TLC has always attracted listeners from all backgrounds. "I was an army brat" she says, "so I grew up in several neighborhoods. I grew up in black neighborhoods, I grew up in white neighborhoods, I lived in Panama where it was predominantly Spanish people or army kids. It was very multi-cultural for me as a child".
After moving to Atlanta in November 1990, Lisa connected with Tionne T-Boz Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, and TLC was born. Lisa's hyper-energetic Technicolor vocals and combination of intelligence and sex appeal helped TLC's 1992 debut album, Oooooooh... On The TLC Tip, spawn three consecutive Top Ten hits: Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg, What About Your Friends, and Baby-Baby-Baby. Shortly before the release of their second album, Lisa's media profile hit a new (and unwanted) high-point when she was arrested for burning down the house of her boyfriend, NFL Falcon star Andre Rison. Despite the controversy surrounding Lisas arrest, 1994's Crazysexycool went on to sell more than 10 million copies and earn the group widespread play on MTV with groundbreaking videos for hit singles like Waterfalls and Red Light Special. FanMail followed in 1999, and continued to expand TLCs fanbase with hits that featured a new level of artistic ingenuity, including No Scrubs and Unpretty.
Amid all the glamour, album sales, awards, and controversy, theres been quite a bit of confusion on the part of the public and the media about Lisas identity. One thing that Supernova will make clear is that Lisa Left-Eye Lopes is a real person, not some diva on a star trip. The depth of her thinking will be apparent to anyone who explores the lyrics on Supernova, and at the same time, her down-to-earth qualities come shining through.
Its real life that interests Lisa and its real life she sings about on Supernova. In the song Jenny, for example, Lisa starts with the sounds of the Nickelodeon alarm clock, the clock that she used to wake up to every morning. She uses the song to tell the story of an imaginary character, but the message is very real: loyalty. "Dont forget about your homies" she says. "Start thinking about your best friends when youre listening to that cut".
But loyalty to crew is just one of the themes Lisa explores on Supernova. Even more important, of course, is loyalty to oneself. In the song, I Believe in Me she sings, "Its dedicated to moi I believe in me. I take care of me. All I need is me".
"Im not just a member of TLC" she says. "I am my own entity". And one listen to Supernova will leave no doubt. A new star really has been born.