Anniversary, History, Interview, Review

25 Years Of “Freedom”: The Top R&B Divas Of The 90’s Unite To Create Epic Black Girl Magic

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In fall of 1995, more than 60 female musicians traveled to Capitol Records in Los Angeles, where they recorded both the vocals and the visuals to the ground-breaking single, “Freedom“, on the same day. The single was the title track to the Mario Van Peebles directed movie, ‘Panther‘, based on the Black Panther Party.

Women’s publication Zora gave us a well documented account of events of how this historic masterpiece came together. The song was originally recorded by the singer Joi for her debut album, produced by Dallas Austin. It was later picked up, reconceptualized, and released as ‘Panther’s official theme song.

Former label executive Ed Ecksein says having a record featuring all women sent a message about the film before it even hit theaters. “The power behind the organization was women. The backbone behind the organization was women,” he says. “So we needed to do something similar on the soundtrack as we did for the BMU record (Black Men United).”

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The actual day of the track’s recording required ultimate levels of coordination and an understanding of how and why to stagger artists’ arrivals and recording schedules to avoid overlaps. There were camera crews, food service, hair and makeup, but no egos in sight.

Even with stars like Queen Latifah, Vanessa Williams, MC Lyte, Mary J Blige, Aaliyah, Brownstone, Salt-N-Pepa, Patra, XScape, and En Vogue in the house, A&R Sam Sapp remembers this remarkable tidbit: “Everyone was in the same room, and there was no VIP area.”

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TLC were determined to be a part of this amazing project but were unable to be there at the same time as the other artists, so they recorded their parts at a later date and were edited into the final mix.

In order to work around Left Eye‘s probation-related travel restrictions Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins says the trio recorded vocals in a local Atlanta studio and filmed the video from the conference room at LaFace Records.

“It was the most amazing thing to have my fist pumped and have on this hat that had a Black ballplayer and a ball on the front and represent,” she says. “It made you feel so proud to be Black. It was an awesome thing to be a part of.”

The record was also a game changer in that both an R&B and a rap version were featured on the soundtrack. Sapp says artists were freestyling to the instrumental while waiting to record, and they commissioned the “Dallas’ Dirty Half Dozen Mix” on the spot.

The “Freedom” single was a top charter on the ‘Panther’ soundtrack, peaking at #10 on Billboard’s R&B Singles Chart and snagging the #45 spot on the Hot 100.

While there may not be as many Black women artists today, they are still making their mark in music. For the first time in history, four Black female soloists recently occupied the Hot 100’s top two slots (Doja Cat‘s “Say So” remix with Nicki Minaj took the top spot, with Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce‘s “Savage” remix at the second spot).

As for another Black woman collective recording in the future, “Freedom” artists are passing the torch.

“It should be another song now with the new generation of artists that would show people that we’re sticking together,” T-Boz says. “I think it’s needed again, especially with the state of the world today.”

Read the full story from Zora here.

Artists featured on “Freedom”:

Aaliyah, Amel Larrieux, Brownstone, Jade, Blackgirl, SWV, Monica, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Mary J Blige, Tanya Blount, Changing Faces, En Vogue, TLC, Felicia Adams, Joi, N’Dea Davenport, For Real, Zhane, Eshe, Queen Latifah, Billy Lawrence, Lalah Hathaway, Brigette McWilliams, Miss Jones, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Pebbles, Patra, Chantay Savage, Sonja Marie, Xscape, Terri & Monica, Y?N-Vee, Vanessa Williams, Karyn White, Caron Wheeler, Crystal Waters, Vybe, Tracie Spencer, Brenda Russell, Sweet Sable, Raja-Nee, Pure Soul, Nefertiti, Natasha, Yo-Yo, Cindy Mizelle, Milira, Da 5 Footaz, Emage, E.V.E, Penny Ford, Jazzyfatnastees.

Anniversary, Interview, Tribute

Melanie C Shares Her Time Working With Left Eye On Her First Solo Number One Record

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Mel C & Left Eye in 2000 (Credit: Ron Davis)

Melanie C aka Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls took the opportunity this week to celebrate her debut solo album, 1999’s ‘Northern Star‘, with the weekly pop podcast Track By Track to discuss the album in detail, track-by-track.

The year 2000 was a special time in music. TLC were on hiatus after the success of their mega-selling ‘FanMail‘ album and the record-breaking tour to support it, while the Spice Girls were also taking a break from world domination to focus on their solo projects.

Melanie C decided to team up with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes on her debut solo album, which led to Melanie earning her first solo number one single in the UK in the summer of 2000, an exciting time for both TLC and Spice Girls fans!

The single in question was “Never Be The Same Again“. Melanie C gave us some beautiful memories of her time working with Lisa around the time of the single being released.

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Melanie proudly states that the Spice Girls were huge fans of TLC. “I couldn’t believe my luck when I had the opportunity to work with [Lisa]. And she was perfect!”, Melanie exclaims.

Lisa was the only rapper Mel C wanted on the track with her. “She was the only person I wanted on that song. I was writing with Rhett Lawrence & we got to the middle 8 & all I could hear was a Lisa-style rap”, she recalls. “He gave her a call & next thing I knew she was on the track. So that was a wonderful experience”.

Melanie states that she shot the spiritual video with Lisa in Malibu, which features a scene with Lisa and Melanie performing tai chi moves together while Lisa lays down her iconic verse, once again proving why she was the perfect choice for the track.

Following the success of the single in March 2000, Melanie invited Lisa to promote the single with her in London for a couple of performances and interviews to help keep the track at number one for a second week!

At the time of the promotional run, Lisa told Top Of The Pops: Backstage how she felt about being part of the success with Melanie. “Now that we might be number one twice in a row, I feel like I’m running a marathon and I’m almost at the finish line!”, she says excitedly.

The solo recognition also meant a lot to Lisa, as she was seeking to launch her solo career in the UK. “It is important. I’m going to be coming back over here to do a solo project of mine, so it is always good to be recognised and especially if you can make that number one slot”.

Lisa and Mel C also stopped by at BBC Radio One, where Lisa further discusses her need to have her voice heard solo. “I’ve always wanted to do a solo album. I am an emcee, and I love TLC — but I’m very limited to the amount of work that I can actually do. It’s usually a few songs, 16 bars here and there, and I like to really strut my stuff.”

“But as far as the rumors, we’re fine. We haven’t broken up. We went through a little something last year, but it’s not the first time that we’ve been through something, it’s just the first time that it was publicized”, Lisa explains.

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“The issues that have existed?”, Lisa continues,  “personal differences when it comes to business decisions and the direction that we move forward in. It’s one group, with three different people with three different visions, so which direction do we go in?”.

Mel C co-signs with Lisa about the struggles of being in a group. “We have earned the right to yell at each other”, Lisa jests. “You spend so much time together that you become like sisters”, Mel adds. “And no matter what’s said you still love each other. You iron out your differences and you sort it out”.

“Never Be The Same Again” will always be special to Mel C, not just because it blessed her with her first number one, but because Lisa was a part of it with her. “This will always be a very important song to me, obviously being my first UK No. 1 and really launching the whole album to new heights, but also sadly losing Lisa was so tragic, she was so young and such a huge talent, so I feel very lucky I was able to work with her and we have this piece of music, that we worked on together, forever”.

Melanie eventually got the chance to meet the rest of TLC in 2018 at the Mighty Hoopla in London, 19 years since she first worked with Lisa. Fans can always live in hope that the two biggest girl groups in history unite one day on tour. Lisa would have loved the idea.

Melanie C’s new single, “Who I Am“, is out now.
Anniversary, Announcement, Concert, News

TLC Announce Return to UK on ‘CrazySexyCool’ 25th Anniversary, Tease Glastonbury Festival 2020

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On the eve of the 25th anniversary of TLC‘s record-breaking sophomore album, ‘CrazySexyCool‘, the girl’s decided to coincide the date with a major announcement!

T-Boz and Chilli will be returning to the UK in 2020 to embark on an exclusive one night only performance in London at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on June 29th to celebrate both the 25th anniversary of ‘CrazySexyCool’ and the 20th anniversary of TLC’s first headline FanMail tour 2000.

The show will be TLC’s second headline show in London, following their debut UK concert in 2017 at KOKO London, and their overall third British show, when they appeared at their first UK festival at the Mighty Hoopla in 2018.

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The news of the show brings music to the ears of many fans, who have been craving their return to the UK, since the European tour was postponed back in 2017.

And if rumours are to believed, TLC’s British invasion may not stop there, as Chilli hints that there may be talk of TLC making a debut Glastonbury festival appearance.

Speaking to Mark Savage for the BBC this week, when the topic of Glastonbury 2020 was brought up, Chilli said, “Is that what you heard? I heard that too. That’s what I’m hearing,” she giggles, slyly.

“I’m hoping. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, legs crossed. Everything that it’s possible to cross, it’s crossed.”

Tickets for the show are available at 10am on Wed 20 Nov on Ticketmaster.  A Live Nation UK presale takes place on Tues 19 Nov. Priority Tickets for O2 customers go on sale Mon 18 Nov at 10am.
VIP packages will also be available.
Package includes:
  • Standing ticket to see TLC Live
  • Pre show Meet & Greet with TLC
  • Personal Photo with TLC
  • Pre Show Soundcheck & Q&A with TLC
  • Early entry into the venue
  •  Exclusive TLC organic cotton tote bag including:
    • Show specific tour poster, autographed by TLC
    • Badge set designed exclusively for package purchasers 
    • Souvenir TLC Laminate and Lanyard
  • On site VIP check in and merchandise collection point
Anniversary, Announcement, Music

Sony Release Classic TLC EP’s On 25th Anniversary of ‘CrazySexyCool’

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CrazySexyCool‘ was released 25 years ago on this day, on November 15, 1994. TLC‘s sophomore album went on to become a diamond-certified album, which was recently certified 14x platinum by the RIAA.

To celebrate the album’s milestone, Sony Music has decided to gift TLC fans with the official digital release of the four major singles lifted from the record-breaking project.

The four EP’s in question are; “Creep”, “Red Light Special”, “Waterfalls” and “Diggin’ On You“. The releases are available to stream on Spotify, and are available for purchase on iTunes.

25 years on and ‘CrazySexyCool’ continues to stand the test of time, remaining a favorite by millions across the world! Those who grew up with the album being the soundtrack to their lives will indeed remember the drama that surrounded the girls at it’s time of release — bankruptcy, arson and rumors of a break-up!

Despite serving time locked away in rehab during the creation of ‘CrazySexyCool’, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes made sure she used her leave time to work on the follow-up to 1992’s break-out hit, ‘Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip‘, which included her most iconic rap verse on their most important hit to date, “Waterfalls”.

Sony previously blessed TLC fans back in July 2017 with the release of their EP’s from their debut LP, including the festive release, “Sleigh Ride“, following the release of their final self-titled studio album.

Enjoy the best of the ‘CrazySexyCool’ remixes!

Happy 25th Birthday,  ‘CrazySexyCool’!