Interview, Lifestyle, News, Radio

T-Boz: “Police Pulled Me Over Just For Driving A Nice Car!”

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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”.

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Tionne’s cousin Eddie Russell Jr

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's children Chase and Chance
Tionne’s children Chase and Chance

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”.

TLC in 1999
TLC in 1999

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.

Interview, Tribute

Spice Girl Mel C Admits She Was Emotional Meeting TLC After Left Eye Passed Away

Mel C Left Eye TLC | TLC-ARMY.COM

Melanie C of the Spice Girls recently spoke about TLC on her regular #AskMelanieC Q&A session on Facebook Live in May, and focused her favourite member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, with whom she famously worked with on her #1 single, “Never Be The Same Again” in 2000. This was the second time this year Mel praised Lisa publicly, she spoke about her in April as part of the Track-By-Track celebration of her debut album, ‘Northern Star‘.

Melanie said that she and the rest of the Spice Girls loved TLC and were inspired by them in the early days. When discussing how her collaboration with Lisa happened, she says that it became a reality when she decided her song needed a rap and only wanted Left Eye to do it. The producer Rhett Lawrence had previously worked with TLC and was able to reach out and Lisa loved the idea.

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Credit: Ron Davis

“When writing the song, we got to the middle eight where the rap is — the middle eight is the bit where the music is on it’s own which is completely different to the verses and the chorus, about three quarters of the way in”, Melanie explains. “I could just hear a Lisa ‘Left Eye’ styled rap, the way she had a unique style and the rhythms that she used.”

“She recorded the rap — Lisa was one of the writers of the rap, but she had a little team that they wrote it together with”, Melanie recalls. “It was a brilliant rap, and it really works with the song. The context is just so brilliant. It was meant to be. I’m very proud that I got to work with her”.

Melanie remembers the different occasions she was able to hang around Lisa to get to know her more. “We hung out a few times. I wasn’t in the studio when she recorded her rap. I must have been in the UK at the time. It was sent to me and I loved it immediately”, she confessed. “We hung out in LA just to get to know each other a little bit — we shot the video together obviously”.

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Melanie loved shooting the music video for “Never Be The Same Again” with Lisa, which was directed by Francis Lawrence, who also directed music videos for artists like Jennifer Lopez (“Waiting For Tonight“), Destiny’s Child (“Independent Women Part 1“) and Justin Timberlake (“Cry Me A River“).

“One of my favourite moments would be learning the dance. Doing the video was really fun because that was when we really got to work properly together”, Melanie said. “She came to the the UK to do some promo for Top Of The Pops and we did some MTV stuff. It was just amazing to work with her and get to know her for a bit. She was like a force of nature”.

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Melanie got emotional when she recalls the moment she was told about the news that Lisa had passed away. “It was such a shock when I got the call. I was in Italy when she passed away — she was in a car accident and she was only 30, so it was very sad indeed”, Mel said. “Whenever I do the song [live] I always think of her”.

Melanie C had the opportunity to meet TionneT-Boz” Watkins and RozondaChilli” Thomas for the first time in 2018, when she performed at the same Mighty Hoopla festival that TLC were headlining in London and admits that seeing them without Lisa made her feel emotional.

“I did the song at the Mighty Hoopla a few years back and TLC were headlining that gig and it was the first time I had met T-Boz and Chilli”, she recalls. “I was so excited to meet them and I just burst into tears because it made me think of Lisa”, an emotional Mel recalls before changing the subject.

Melanie C’s new single, “Who I Am“, is out now. Watch TLC in their latest TV project ‘Iconic: TLC
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.

History, Interview, News

Jermaine Dupri: “Xscape Sang Low On First Single To Sound Like TLC”

TLC-Xscape-JermaineDupri TLC-ARMY.COM

In the second episode of T.I.‘s ExpidiTIously with Jermaine Dupri (April 9), he reminisces about the early days of his career and how he first became to work with Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, whom he met through his close friend Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who was sleeping in his closet at the time.

The girls were in a girl group — but it wasn’t the TLC we currently know and love. T-Boz and Left Eye were in another group, calling themselves Second Nature. “I started cutting songs with ‘TL’ in my house, way before L.A. and Babyface came onto the scene”, Jermaine recalls.

“I was writing R&B songs for them, and they were like, ‘okay, let’s do it’. So, I wrote these songs for ‘TL’ and one was called “I Got It Goin’ On“, he continues. “The way I was singing on the demo, I said I want you to sing it like this. Tionne was like ‘that’s low, don’t nobody wanna hear me sing like that, they wanna hear me sang’.”

“I was like ‘nah, you’ve gotta be cool. You’ve gotta sing down here where I’m at. You hear where I’m at?'”, Jermaine said. “So, Tionne started mimicking my demo, and that’s how she got that T-Boz sound that people know of today “.

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TLC as 2nd Nature in 1990

Before TLC signed a record deal with LaFace Records, Left Eye called Jermaine to tell him about a meeting she had scheduled with Pebbles. “She said ‘JD, we’re having this meeting with Pebbles, should I take the meeting?’ I could have told her don’t go.”, he recalls. “But I didn’t have a label or an outlet to tell her to say no at the time. I couldn’t replace the opportunity. So I told her to go to the meeting, because if you get signed I’m going to do the songs. So, I was thinking as a producer as opposed to the CEO of a record company. I was thinking if they get a deal bigger than I had, then I can produce on these bigger records. So, I encouraged her to have this meeting with Pebbles, and basically said I’m caught up with Kris Kross, I don’t have the means to do both.”

Jermaine points out that if he had signed TLC at the time when he had the opportunity, it would have been a slightly different TLC with a former member instead of Chilli. “The C at that time was a girl named Crystal, who was the girlfriend of Headliner, a DJ from the group Arrested Development, another one of Ian Burke‘s groups, which is how Crystal got in the group. I don’t know what happened in that meeting with Pebbles, but she got rid of Crystal and added a girl she knew, which was Chilli, and introduced them to L.A. and Babyface.”

He is grateful for how TLC have always had his back throughout their career, never forgetting where they came from and keep him involved in their projects. He said, “I did the “Hat 2 Da Back” remix, which is the version that came out, and a couple of songs on ‘CrazySexyCool‘ including the intro with Phife Dogg, rest in peace. But they always kept me in the mix, they really remembered and never acted like that shit came from somewhere else, they remember how it started. So I was cool; I’ve got TLC. I’ve got Kris Kross. I’ve got Xscape”.

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T-Boz with Jermaine Dupri on the video set to TLC “Baby-Baby-Baby” in 1992

Jermaine mostly wrote his R&B songs with a low register in mind based on the T-Boz sound. “I was making these records with Tionne and she was singing low, so that’s all I knew when it came to R&B, as far as me writing it”, Jermaine explains. This sound went on to influence Xscape, the first group he signed to his So So Def label.

Although Xscape already had cemented their sound with LaTocha Scott as the lead singer, Jermaine wanted to inject some songs with a low register lead vocal like TLC. He presented the track, “Just Kickin’ It” to the girls, which was also the debut single for the group. However, it featured Kandi Burruss on the lead vocal, as Jermaine felt she had the lower register that LaTocha couldn’t achieve. “I had LaTocha sing on it but it didn’t sound right for what I wanted”, he admits.

Jermaine notes he feels that his influence on changing the original vocal dynamics of Xscape led to their problems with each other later on in group, which ended with the original line-up of the group going on a lengthy hiatus for 18 years before reuniting to go on tour in 2017.

“I was against them being just another En Vogue, there needs to be an edge to it than just four girls singing, all of them need to sing” Jermaine explains. “If “Just Kickin’ It” wasn’t successful, Kandi probably wouldn’t have been lead on the second album. If people liked her singing on lead, then okay”.

Do you think Kandi and T-Boz sound alike vocally? Would a TLC and Xscape collab be good? 

Catch up on the first part of the JD interview here