Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Monday, May 21, 2007

    It sounds like a plotline for an independent film. A frustrated artist retreats to the jungle to find peace and solitude. She reflects on her chaotic life, mistakes, abuse, selfishness, rebelliousness, disappointments, creativity and success. However, she believes a "spirit is chasing her". In the end, the spirit catches up with her...

    Not even the greatest gossip columnist could have made up the mystical events that lead up to the death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes on April 25, 2002. I wouldn't have believed it myself if I didn’t see the most chilling documentary I have ever watched on a pop artist, Rock Docs: The Last Days of Left Eye, which debuted on VH1 at 9pm Saturday night.

    Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was one third of the biggest selling R&B female group of all time, TLC, and the biggest selling female group next to the Dixie Chicks (number 93 of all time to be exact). I never understand why the Destiny's Child camp claim they are the biggest selling group of all time. I’ve had to argue this fact with many delusional Bey and DC fans so for those who don’t believe me, click here for the direct link.

    Seeing the documentary I couldn't help but recall the impact TLC had on pop culture in the ‘90’s. They had a message we never heard from three black women in the music industry, safe sex and female empowerment. It’s interesting to hear people criticizing hip-hop now because I vividly remember when parents were mortified by TLC…yes, good ole’ non-threatening T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli were supposedly corrupting the children of America. Left Eye said in the song “Fanmail”, “Some parents was like, you're the thieves and the pimps and the thugs of stage and you owe every mother in America a public apology.” They were as political as R&B music was going to get in the 1990’s.

    TLC was an amazing group—original, creative, intelligent, ballsy and there wasn’t a lead. No plastic Barbie doll smiles, they, or at least Left Eye, were going to say what was on their mind, regardless of the cost... even when it came to battles within the group. But, rather than going through a revolving door of group members, they rode the storm with loyalty.

    The Last Days of Left Eye compelling shows the driven energy that Lisa had, which would take TLC to major super stardom. Her honesty was legendary…and not in the Kanye West type of way…but more in a “I’ve been fucked over too many times by demons in this industry.” In one scene they show Lisa in classic Left Eye mode telling MTV that Dallas Austin was charging them over four million dollars to record with them—so she blasted him. I miss artists like Left Eye.

    In 2002, taking a break from the industry Lisa trekked to Honduras for a spiritual retreat. She decided to make a documentary of the experience. We see a reflective and strikingly beautiful Lisa "in the bush", as she put it, naked in waterfalls, laying in the grass and telling her journey. Lisa is not the crazy figure we see in the media, but she does take accountability for her actions such as going missing for weeks at a time, challenging T-Boz and Chili and being the diva of the group. Lisa said with a smile on her face, “What’s better than showing up and being a star? Not showing up. So, I didn’t show up and I was the star.”

    With each minute that goes by the vibe gets increasingly disturbing as Lisa goes into detail about her violent childhood. Lisa admits to different personalities that she created in order to endure her pain such as "Nikki" and "Nina" (Nina was also her name on Deathrow Records). Also, she lets loose on the horrific abuse she suffered from Andre Rison, whose house she, “Burnt to ground!”

    Many parts of Lisa’s story we know, but what we don't know are the strange and Stephen King-ish events that lead up to her unexpected death, which the documentary ominously reveals like a script. Lisa believed a spirit was chasing her. She was having bizarre dreams and premonitions. And, beyond bizarre, in only days before her death a child ran in front of the car she was riding in and was killed. A melancholy Lisa holds up a pair of shoes and says, "These are the shoes that belonged to the little boy and his last name was Lopez…ain’t that something?" Lisa reveals to her friends that a spirit is haunting her and killed the child by mistake. Well, if that ain’t The Twilight Zone, I don’t know what it is!

    In the last scene, Lisa is driving through Honduras with a pack of cards in her hand. She looks into the camera and gives a soft smile, the last eye contact we will have with Left Eye. The camera pans to the passengers in the back. Someone asks for the cards, Lisa hands them over…suddenly, the car screeches down the road, you get a quick flash of Lisa trying to gain control, people scream, the car crashes and the camera goes blank. I was mortified at this footage; this was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen from a mainstream documentary. You are sitting there stunned as the screen is black for seconds.

    Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was wearing a seat belt and was the only fatality. Supposedly, there is more footage showing Lisa’s death, but was thankfully edited out. Some might have an issue with showing the last minutes of her to life to the world. But, I believe Lisa would’ve wanted it to be shown. She believed if you were going to tell a story, go all the way.

    This documentary was immensely moving and I wondered why it wasn’t released at an independent film festival or a bigger media outlet? The story was twenty times better than the Dixie Chicks Shut Up & Sing, which was also a great movie...but this documentary had a plotline like a screenplay and the rawest look into the mind of one R&B/hip-hop’s most complex figures.

    Never in the history of pop culture have we seen the last moments of a pop star. Imagine if we had the last moments of Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison deaths? Do people think TLC was not artistically relevant enough? I cannot imagine anyone watching this documentary and not being deeply moved. If this were a white artist from Britney Spears to Norah Jones would it have gotten distribution and not just a TV special? Hell, Kurt & Courtney was a major film. I remember when mainstream journalists in New York City criticized the public outcry for Aaliyah, who they did not think was deserving of the attention.

    A half a decade after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ death she is still sharing her visions, philosophies, truth and...is still the star.

    On May 27th Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes would’ve been 36 years-old.

    Check your local listings for airings of Rock Docs: The Last Days of Left Eye.

    Pasted below is a clip of Left Eye talking about 2Pac--another eerie coincidence...



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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 14 comments

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