Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

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Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, chart-topping group on the cusp of new jack swing dance pop (f. 1984). Membership: Lisa Lisa (real name, Lisa Vêlez), voc. (b. N.Y., Jan. 15, 1967); Spanador (real name, Alex Moseley), gtr. (b. N.Y., 1962); Mike Hughes, drm. (b. N.Y., 1963).

The youngest of ten children brought up in an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, just a block off Broadway, Lisa Velez sang in the church choir, worked in community theater productions, and acted in high school musicals. After high school, she folded sweaters for Benetton by day and hung out at the Fun House by night, because she heard that Madonna had been “discovered” there. She met drummer Mike Hughes, who worked with hip-hop impresarios Full Force. He told her they were looking for a girl singer to front a new group. She auditioned and at 16 years old she got the job. The group redubbed her Lisa Lisa (after their first major hit, “Roxanne Roxanne”) and within a week she was in the studio with Full Force, Hughes, and guitarist Alex “Spanador” Mosely. They cut “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” which topped the dance charts, eked its way into the Top 40 at #34, and went gold. The next single, “Can You Feel the Beat” didn’t fare quite as well, but the ballad “All Cried Out” broke the group pop, hitting #3 on the R&B charts, #8 on the pop charts, and going gold. The group’s 1985 eponymous album, collecting all these hits, eventually went platinum.

Full Force released their next album, Spanish Fly, less than a year after the first single hit. The lead off single from the new album, the breezy dance tune “Head to Toe” topped the pop and R&B charts and went gold, as did the next single “Lost in Emotion.”

“Somebody to Love Me for Me” went Top Ten R&B, as did “Everything Will B-Fine.” Spanish Fly also went platinum, topping out at #7 on the album charts. This represented the peak in the band’s fortunes. Their next album Straight for the Sky, produced just one pop single, “Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star” which went to #29 pop (#3 R&B), and a pair of minor R&B hits. For their next album, they hedged their bets, with Full Force producing half the tracks and the hot dance pop team of Cole and Clivilles producing the other. The C&C hit “Let the Beat Hit Them” topped the R&B charts, scratched into the pop Top 40 at #37, and became the group’s fifth gold single. The album, however, didn’t sell well.

In 1993, Lisa Lisa went solo with the album LL77, but the album only produced a couple of minor R&B hits. She kept busy, continuing to work with Full Force, as well as doing voice over work in both English and Spanish. “All Cried Out” resurfaced in a cover version by Allure in 1997. Lisa Lisa still lives in her mother’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen.


Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force (1985); Spanish Fly (1987); Straight to the Sky (1989); Straight Outta Hell’s Kitchen (1991); LL 77 (1993); Head to Toe (1995).

—Hank Bordowitz