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 Rozonda "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 known for 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 they 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. Pebbles held auditions, scouted for talent, and asked everyone she knew for referrals. It was her hairstylist who introduced her to T-Boz, who was an assistant at the beauty salon. T-Boz was in a group with Left Eye and Crystal Jones called 2nd Nature. Pebbles took interest.
Pebbles changed the group's name to TLC and began teaching them how to perform, take photos and develop their personas. When she felt they were ready, she secured the group an audition with LaFace Records, co-founded by her then-husband Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. 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 Beg"'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 a gimmick to associate with their personality. "Left Eye comes back and she's got condoms all over," Pebbles said, laughing as she recalled scenarios from the group's artist development stage.
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. Pebbles understood Left Eye and they worked well together.
Though Pebbles had a close personal relationship with the girls -- Left Eye lived with Pebbles's family for a brief stint -- conflict arose 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 motivation for severing her business ties with the group was more complicated than the reported allegations of financial and creative disputes, but she declined to comment further.
Pebbles said it is difficult to say whether or not she would approach things differently with the group if given a second chance. "If you change the dynamics, you might not have the same outcome," she said. "I would never change giving 1000 percent of myself to these girls personally and professionally. "
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 came 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.
Several years passed before Pebbles spoke to Left Eye again. Pebbles's final conversation with Left Eye took place a few years before the fatal car accident. One of Pebbles's former artists connected the estranged friends.
"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."
"I'm so thankful that I spoke to her," Pebbles said. "It was very emotional. We were both very vulnerable towards one another and it was filled with love and respect. I was really looking forward to being able to mend things."
Though Pebbles and Left Eye 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. The next day, Pebbles went to Left Eye's mother's house to comfort T-Boz and Chilli. She later attended Left Eye's wake and funeral.
Pebbles said she will never forget the day she met Left Eye. "When I met Lisa, I saw those big beautiful, doe eyes and that electric personality," she said. "She was a sweet and complicated soul all at the same time. I was happy to have ever known her."