The R&B groups of the 90’s aren’t done with the topic of a girl group 90’s Verzuz battle just yet. Tamika Scott of the group Xscape today (July 29, 2020) gave Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins a public reply, in response to T-Boz saying she would willingly battle the any of groups back in May. “It would have to be in a ‘nice and love’ way, a friendly competition”, she insisted.
Tamika reached out to T-Boz via Instagram, to inform her that she has the blessing of her group mate Tameka “Tiny” Harris and SWV member Lelee Lyons. Tamika said, “Okay T-Boz, I hear you… I spoke with Tiny last night and I spoke with Lelee today. We’re here for it, let’s do it for the culture! Let’s have some fun ladies!!”
It is currently unclear how three groups could carry out a head-to-head challenge, but if the technicalities can be figured out this would be an epic Verzuz episode, breaking the boundaries and making new rules for a three-way challenge for the first time.
As long as one member from each group agrees, this could finally happen. The Verzuz team have already teased some interest in the acts included in this challenge, so it’s just a waiting game.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes shocked the world when she signed with Suge Knight‘s reinvention of his classic Death Row records, renamed as Tha Row back in 2002, as a result of her disappointment at her home label, Arista Records, failing to support her debut solo album, ‘Supernova‘, in 2001.
Lisa’s new moniker was N.I.N.A (New Identity Non-Applicable) on Tha Row, a name given to her by Knight, as he felt her small frame was like a small 9mm handgun (which has a street name of ‘nina’). When she was spotted with Knight at a Lakers/Grizzlies game in LA on Nov 9, 2001, Lisa explains to EW, “I was visited by a man in my dream, one that sweated me all night about Mr. Suge Knight. He was right, but that’s a whole other story.”
Eastwood, a label mate of N.I.N.A on Tha Row worked with her on her solo project shortly before she passed away on April 25, 2002. He told Variety that he worked on 99.5% of her second solo album, and even co-wrote her verse on TLC‘s single, “Girl Talk“, the lead track from their ‘3D‘ album in 2002.
“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”, Eastwood said.
Producer Darren Vegas worked on the majority of the tracks for the N.I.N.A project, and when she tragically passed away he was given the task to work with material that was left over, mostly comprising of masters from her previous solo album. “Her vibe was real cool,” he says. “I expected her to be all wild and stuff from what I’d heard, [but] she was real laid back and calm”, he told LA Weekly.
“When she was [signed to Tha Row] she didn’t drink at all. She was on a cleanse, and she actually got artists at Death Row to do cleansings, as she was back and forth to Honduras”, he continues. “She just seemed real determined to have the world hear a solo album. The stuff we were working on, we weren’t copying what she had done [with TLC]. We were creating a brand new sound.”
Many of the tracks were released online over the years as the project was eventually abandoned, officially. Jordan Cooper of the Left Eye fanpage The Eye Is Right decided that the project deserved some more attention, and decided to compile all of the available material from the project as one album for all to enjoy.
After creating some polls with fans on social media, the title of the project was decided as the self-titled ‘N.I.N.A‘, which was released on July 25, 2020 via the fanpage. It also features a version of “Too Street 4 TV” featuring Brandy‘s brother Ray-J, who also signed to Tha Row for a brief period of time.
‘Tha Row Presents… N.I.N.A.’
1. Block Party (featuring Eastwood and Phobia)
2. Life (featuring Danny Boy and Eastwood)
3. Let Me Live (featuring Crooked I)
4. Universal Quest (featuring Crooked I)
5. Rags to Riches (featuring Kurupt)
6.Untouchable (with 2Pac)
7. I Believe In Me
8. Hot Lanta (featuring Kurupt and Juvenile)
9. Tru Confessions
10.Too Street 4 TV (featuring Danny Boy)
11. Friends (featuring Kurupt and Danny Boy)
12. Life (Alternate Version) (Featuring Carl Thomas and Eastwood)
13. Too Street 4 TV (OG Version) (Featuring Ray J.)
14. Crush on You (with Ejypt)
“It’s been a long, long time coming“, the opening line from ‘Way Back‘, the first single lifted from TLC‘s first album in 15 years, which was released a year ago today on June 30, 2017!
After breaking the record for the fastest Kickstarter funded pop project ever in 2015 (they raised over $430k and smashed their $150k deadline in under 48 hours), the girls were finally ready to unleash their hard work to the world, independently on their own label, 852 Musiq.
The album went on to become the #1 Independent Album on Billboard and topped the R&B Album Charts in the UK and in other parts of the world, whilst the lead single ‘Way Back’ remained in the Adult R&B singles chart for months.
We are still super stoked about this solid body of work produced by T-Boz and Chilli.
The essence of Left Eye‘s is ever present on the record, too — through a shout out on “No Introduction“, where they sing “Left Eye still here, irreplaceable position“, and an interlude featuring Left Eye talk about her wishes and aspirations.
Earlier this month, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins took some time out to speak with the hit travel podcast, ‘All The S**t I’ve Learned Abroad‘, with Steph Paige and Andrea Gillis about her travel experiences and opens up about her thoughts and feelings on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Tionne can completely relate to the loss of George Floyd, who was tragically murdered in broad daylight by police last month, as her cousin Eddie Russell Jr was also killed when he was shot by Illinois police in September 2017, despite informing them that he suffered with a mental illness to deter them from using unjust force.
“The only difference with racism [today] is that it’s being taped now. There’s still people doing modern day lynching, and that’s what you’re seeing when you see cases like Ahmaud Aubury and George Floyd”, Tionne says. “I’ve looked up all of these cases — my cousin was actually one of them that was gunned down with AR-15’s and shot 18 times. They blew his jaw off and the back of his head, and he was mentally ill. They told my cousin to call her son out and they gunned him down as soon as he came out of that garage”.
In the midst of these constant tragedies against black people, Tionne is pleased to see that the Black Lives Matter movement is also being supported by non-black people, who aren’t afraid to use their voices to help to make a change. “I’m looking at all of these races come together to fight for the same thing. Even caucasian people are saying they’re tired of black people being murdered by white cops”, Tionne says. “It broke my heart the other day when Ashton Kutcher almost started crying because his white friends kept saying ‘all lives matter’, and he said no, black lives DO matter.”
Tionne also addresses the fact that a lot of the looting and vandalism isn’t always carried out by black people. With that said, although she doesn’t agree with the looting, she does understand why it happens sometimes. “It might not be right, but I understand it. I might not like it, because I’ve been robbed before when I had my store [Chase’s Closet], but I understand why they’re doing it”, Tionne exclaims.
One of the saddest realities of living in an unjust world as a black person is reassuring the younger generation that they shouldn’t be afraid of all police. Tionne mentions how her children, daughter Chase Rolison and her four year old son, Chance, become very frightened of the police, especially with so much coverage on the brutality against the black community. “It’s a shame that when police are around my daughter she gets nervous, and when I ask her what’s wrong she says it’s because she’s black. My kids shouldn’t have to feel that way”, Tionne explains. “Being black, period, you have to have a different conversation with your child that you don’t really want to have”.
Tionne reveals that she was also pulled over by the police just for being a black woman driving a nice car. “I’ve been pinned down with 10 cops and guns at my head. My car light had a short in it, so I pulled over and flicked it on and off, and they said I was doing a gang initiation. They had 10 cops lay me out on the car, pat me down with guns to my head. What if someone’s finger had slipped?”, Tionne says.
In another occasion, while Tionne was 6 and a half months pregnant, driving her Porsche on the way back from recording at DARP studios for a TLC record, when she was once again ambushed by police unnecessarily. “He pulls me over and asks what I’m doing in this neighbourhood and ‘you better recite your address, say it fast and you better not stutter!’. Then he asks me how can I afford this car. But I have to take it because he has a gun and I don’t and I’m being disrespected about something I haven’t done, because of his ignorant issues about the world. When the cops found out who I was, he just threw my licence at me and said that I could go”.
Addressing racial prejudice within the music industry, Tionne vents her frustrations on her group TLC being labelled as an R&B group just because they are black, despite producing pop music. “Predominantly, TLC release universal music. Our music fits every genre — except a country song, but I want to!”, Tionne confesses. “But mostly pop — “No Scrubs” is pop, “Waterfalls” is pop, “Unpretty” is pop. But when you’re black, and do a pop song, they still call it R&B — I’m not just an R&B group, don’t box me in just because of my colour. We have different fights within the industry where if you’re black you get paid less than the white groups.”
To hear more about Tionne’s revelations and experiences, including incidents in Paris and South Africa whilst travelling, and why she wants to visit Bora Bora, check out the full episode below!
Be sure to subscribe to the “All The S**t I’ve Learned Abroad” podcast on Spotify.