It's been 10 years since TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car crash in Honduras on April 25, 2002.
The music community was traumatized by her untimely death. Along with group members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas, Left Eye recorded a decade's worth of anthems, including "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "Creep" and "No Scrubs," and became one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.
T-Boz was the cool vocalist who sung in a low register. Chilli was the sexy Black Barbie who sang R&B pop. And Left Eye was the baby-faced, squeaky-voiced rapper always spewing controversial lyrics like, "If I need it in the morning and the middle of the night, I ain't too proud to beg."
After Left Eye's death, TLC never rebounded, though T-Boz and Chilli have performed at select concert dates and award shows.
In an exclusive Yahoo! Music interview, 1990s platinum R&B singer Perri "Pebbles" Reid, who discovered, managed and ushered TLC into super stardom before a nasty public split ensued, opened up about Left Eye for the first time since her 2002 death.
"Please let them know that I have nothing but love for that young lady," Pebbles said during a telephone interview. "Even when things didn't look like that, behind closed doors there were like that."
TLC was Pebbles's vision. After scoring a Grammy nomination and a series of hits, "Mercedes Boy," "Girlfriend" and "Giving You The Benefit," Pebbles sought to assemble a girl group that would make history and launched a talent search. When her hair stylist introduced her to T-Boz and Left Eye, who were in the singing group 2nd Nature, Pebbles took interest.
Pebbles changed the group's name to TLC and secured the group an audition with LaFace Records, co-founded by her the- husband Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Evans." The group's third member Crystal Jones didn't fit the vision Pebbles or the label had for the group, and she was later replaced by Chilli.
Pebbles supports Left Eye's claims that she was an important creative force in the group. TLC caught flack for "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Bed"'s overtly sexual message and the image that included condoms pinned to their Cross Colours outfits.
The condoms were Left Eye's idea, prompted by Pebbles's suggestion that each member come up with gimmick to associate with their personality. "Left Eye comes back and she's got condoms all over," Pebbles said, laughing.
The label executives were scared and thought the idea was too risky. But Pebbles knew how to make it work. "I went back and wrote the words safe sex [in the video]," she said.
Left Eye was always pushing the boundaries. "When you have a full throttle personality, you got to have somebody [who knows when to pull back]," she said.
Though Pebbles had a close personal relationship with the girls -- Left Eye lived with Pebbles's family for a brief stint -- they began to have conflict early into the group's career, and ended their business relationship after the promotional run of their debut, "Ooooooo On The TLC Tip." Pebbles said the severing of her business ties with the group was more complicated than the reported allegations of financial and creative disputes, but she declined to comment further.
Even after Pebbles stopped representing the group, she still cared about them personally, and went to Left Eye's aid in 1994 when she burned down the mansion of her former boyfriend, Atlanta Falcon Andre Rison.
"Andre's house was up the street from where L.A. and I had a home," Pebbles said. "I happened to be home that morning. I remember the nanny telling us, 'There's black stuff all over the cars outside.'" Pebbles saw ashes falling from the sky and noticed smoke coming from the direction of Andre's house. "I remember thinking about Lisa, just a shriek of fear come through me. I didn't know anything was going on. I immediately thought of her and was very afraid," she said.
Pebbles said her maternal instincts kicked in and she immediately tracked down Left Eye. "My thing was, Get her safe, seek her out and assess the situation. I put her in a hotel. Let me contact the record company. Now, I'm not the manager, we're not together anymore, but this required some action."
When more support for Left Eye began to materialize, Pebbles said she backed off and was fine doing so.
Pebbles said she last spoke to Left Eye a few years before she died. One of Pebble's former artists made the connection after speaking with Left Eye.
"He called me and said, 'P, you ought to call Lisa. I saw her today.' He said how Lisa really loves you, P," she said. Pebbles was told that Left Eye raved about how much she missed Pebbles. Left Eye who had put together her own girl group, Blaque, was considered to be following Pebbles's blueprint.
Pebbles called Left Eye that day and was overcome with emotion by her old friend's excitement. "She was like a little kid," Pebbles said, describing Left Eye's humility. "She was like, 'Perri, is this really you? P, is this you for real?' I said, 'Yep.' I called her LeLe. She called me P. She was like, 'Oh my God! I can't believe I'm talking to you. You just made my day. I love you so much and I miss you.' I said, 'I love you too.' She just kept saying, 'Is it really you? I can't believe it.' … Long story short, she was able to say she loved me, and I was able to say I loved her, and we left it at that."
Though they discussed getting together sometime in the future, that meeting never happened. In April 2002, Left Eye was killed in a car crash during a trip to Honduras.
"I ended up talking to T-Boz about it that night and we cried in disbelief," Pebbles said. Pebbles went to Left Eye's mother's house to comfort T-Boz and Chilli and attended Left Eye's wake and funeral.
Until recently, Pebbles had not been up to speaking publicly about Left Eye, but is now OK reflecting on Left Eye, who she revered like a daughter.
She added, "When I first met Left Eye, I remember those big, beautiful doe eyes. She was a beautiful person. I was happy to have ever known her."