On April 25, 2002, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes — one-third of the hip-hop-soul girl group TLC — died in a car accident in Honduras at the age of 30.
West Coast rapper and actor Eastwood worked with Left Eye on her “Nina” solo project shortly before her death, and also worked with another icon who died far too young, Tupac.
Hailing from East Los Angeles and nicknamed “Mr. Black Bandana” to represent neutrality in the streets, Eastwood (along with Crooked I, now Kxng Crooked) is one of the few remaining active artists from Death Row Records, which was founded by Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, and The D.O.C. He later signed with Master P’s No Limit label.
Since then, Eastwood has taken his talents to the screen, co-starring in Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me” biopic and appearing on USA’s “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & the Notorious B.I.G.” and FX’s “Snowfall.” Eastwood talks with Variety about Left Eye, Tupac and his career in the interview below.
What’s it like being one of the few Death Row artists still working?
Yeah, me and Crooked I are the Last of the Mohicans, for sure. I used to look at it as a gift and a curse, because when you on Death Row, you take on their enemies, but at the same time, the world knows your name. Now, I look at it as nothing less than a blessing. It changed my life. It’s a historical label, one of the most successful and feared labels of all time. I love my journey on Death Row, it made me who I am today.
How did you get signed?
I was doing a lot of shows, working with [Snoop, the Outlawz, Kurupt, his little brother Rosco]. I got kicked out the house I was staying in and moved with Kurupt. When Suge got out of jail, he wanted to revamp Death Row, call it the Second Dynasty. We was doing an interview at Power 106 and Suge actually had some folks meet us to let us know he wanted to holla and we ended up going back to the Death Row office.
The next day, Suge sent a limousine to come pick me up from Kurupt’s house to ask me what my mama need, where I want to stay, what kind of car I want. He basically changed my life off of hearing about me in the streets. We did one session and two days later, my Death Row chain came. After he got out, out of everyone that was “Death Row,” it was a chosen seven who had Death Row chains.
With Death Row, what was it like seeing everyone be so…
Suge is a human being, just like you and I. He bleeds like we bleed. What a lot of people see in Suge, I didn’t see that. I never got a chance to experience that, ‘cause the Suge I saw is like a big brother. He had his deficiencies but it was never to the point where I was slapped or bullied, or my checks didn’t come. He f—ed up, and that’s why he’s in jail. I see him as a human being who made some mistakes, who’s paying for those mistakes.
When’s the last time you talked to him?
It’s been a minute, I wanna say two years. My girl been on my head to write him. I’ve tried to go visit him, but they wouldn’t let me come for whatever reason. We’re definitely pen pals though, I’mma write him ASAP.
What was it like working with Left Eye before she passed?
People don’t know about this — I’m giving you some exclusive sh–. When Left Eye finally came and signed to the label as Nina, it was time for her to do her album. She was going to put out her album within two months after she signed, so we had to hurry up and get it done. Suge asked her who she wanted to write with on her album, and she said me and Crooked I. It was hella dope that she threw me in there.
You know the song “Girl Talk” with TLC? That was their last joint — I wrote her verse on there. If you go back and listen to it, you’ll hear me respond to her in the beginning of that verse. This happened three days before she passed.
What was going through your head?
I was very hurt — more so for her, her grind and her family. She put in so much work and deserved so much more life to live. That was a big L for us. But for me to be able to share the front page of the XXL Magazine with her and write her very last single before she passed, and to work on 99.5% of her album with her, and to see her in good spirits, and to soak up this game — I thank her. That was a blessing from her and a blessing from God.
What was the best moment you shared with her?
The first day we worked on her album, she told me to bring some weed. I’m pulling out a blunt to roll up, and she pulls out an onion. I’m looking like “What the f— we finna do with this onion?” She literally peels off the first layer of the onion and rolls up two onion joints. We smoking and she says, “That’s the purest way to smoke weed in a joint or blunt form.” I was like, I was like “Lefty, you trippin’.”
You were signed to Master P’s No Limit Records too, right?
P found out I wasn’t signed to anybody. he was like “come to the studio, let’s work and vibe out.” I did 2 sessions with P. By that second session, my No Limit chain came and I was back in the game with P. He is a general — anybody who can hang around him and soak up some of his game, that’s a blessing. We still cool till this day.
Talk about co-starring in Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me.” First off, were you acting?
Yeah… somewhat. Because it was reality, it was real. I actually cried when I got that role — it gave me new life because I saw a light in me with acting. I played Travon Lane, the guy who was “responsible” for getting Tupac killed. I thank God I know Trayvon personally and had the stamp to play his role, because I got a chance to clear his name. He didn’t get Tupac killed. Pac just loved his homeboys and reacted without thinking, simple as that. [Some have alleged that Lane’s chain being stolen eventually led to Tupac’s shooting.] But that role was another intricate piece to the whole Eastwood puzzle.
What was your relationship with Pac?
I met him at the Fox Hills Mall with my family a couple of times. After that, we did music. I was blessed to do a record with him.
Your album is called “Problem Child.” Why’d they call you that on Death Row?
I think the name speaks for itself: I was young and wildin’, clubbing heavy, getting into it with n—as at the club. Keeping a gun on me, catching stupid cases, running from the police and I’m on Death Row, so it was like “wtf are you doing?” I felt untouchable, but the judge got to me and I was touchable, so I slowed my ass down. I called it the Problem Child because that’s what started me. It’s a body of work I believe in and gave it my all. I know it’s going to be a game changer for me.