TLC were one of the most culturally relevant acts of the ’90s, and Lisa Lefteye Lopes at the world at her feet before she died in 2002 in utterly heartbreaking circumstances.
Towards the end of the decade, tensions began to rise between the group members. Lopes had become tired of her role in TLC, and after their third album, FanMail, she told the press about her discontent in the trio.
Although the album was a success, Lopes needed to become a solo artist if she wanted the full breadth of her talent to flourish. Her debut album, SuperNova, didn’t go the way she envisaged, and the U.S. release was ultimately cancelled.
It had been released overseas but failed to chart in any of the territories, and Sony shelved the record. Lopes was preparing to start afresh with Def Jam and had begun working on her rebrand when she tragically passed while carrying out charity work in Honduras.
Lopes was in Honduras because she was in the process of creating two educational centres for local children. She had struggled with substance abuse throughout her life which hurt TLC, and her visit was a spiritual retreat as she tried to recover.
During her stay on the island, a car she was in accidentally killed a ten-year-old boy, and his death crushed Lopes. She paid for his funeral and told people she felt his “spirit” was with her.
Just two weeks after he died, Lopes would lose her life too. She was driving a rented Mitsubishi Montero SUV in La Ceiba after swerving to avoid a truck swerving again to avoid an oncoming car. Her vehicle then rolled several times. Heartbreakingly, after hitting two trees, Lopes and three others fell out of the windows and landed in a ditch.
The rapper instantly died due to a “fracture of the base of the cranium” and “open cerebral trauma”. Thankfully, all of the other commuters survived. She was just 30-years-old.
In light of Lopes’ death, TLC included samples from her unreleased solo material on their fourth album, 4D. Her family also set up the Lisa Lopes Foundation, which keeps her legacy alive and helping improve the quality of life with a focus on the arts.
The charity is fuelled by her motto, ‘Energy never dies… it just transforms’. Together her family has helped continue Lopes’ mission to improve Honduras, and it’s a grain of positivity which came from tragedy.