Who are Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam? Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam were a popular ‘80s group credited with bringing “freestyle music”—a Latin-influenced blend of pop and R&B—to the mainstream. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam are best known for such hits as “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” “Head to Toe,” “Lost In Emotion,” and “All Cried Out.” During their career, they scored five gold singles and twice topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam is a band everyone knows and loves, even if they don’t think they do.
Tonight, “Unsung” tells the story of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Watch a sneak peek below, and tune in to the full episode tonight at 8pm EST on TV One.
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Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam were fronted by Lisa Velez, a New York City native born on Jan. 15, 1967, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. As a child, Velez dreamed of becoming a star. One night at the Fun House, a popular nightspot for breakdancers and rappers, the then-16-year-old hopeful met up with Mike Hughes, a percussionist and roadie for the group Full Force. At the time, Full Force was looking for a female singer, and with Velez on board, they came together as Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Their debut single, “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” dropped first in Europe, but when American DJs began playing the import, it took off at home, and in the summer of 1985, it reached no. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Who are Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam? That’s a question folks began asking across the country when Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam With Full Force released their debut album in 1985. The disc spawned the hits “Can You Feel the Beat” and “All Cried Out,” which climbed to No. 8 on the pop charts. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s second album, “Spanish Fly,” fared even better, rocketing to No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and yielding the chart-topping singles “Head to Toe” and “Lost In Emotion.”
Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s next two LPs, “Straight to the Sky” (1989) and “Straight Outta Hell’s Kitchen,” didn’t soar quite as high—they peaked at No. 77 and 133, respectively—and “LL77” (1994) and “Life ‘n Love” (2009) failed to chart at all, but even so, Lisa Lisa remains popular, and if you ask in-the-know music fans, “Who are Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam?” they’ll tell you Velez and her crew were true freestyle innovators whose songs still sound fresh today.