“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.
TLC had the tough job of picking a winner from the four talented musicians that participated in this special quarantine friendly combined music talent show and tribute, ‘Iconic: TLC‘, which debuted on The CW on June 1st.
Presented by American Idol star Jordin Sparks, she promises the show will be “TLC like you’ve never heard them before!”
First up was the Fifth Harmony superstar Ally Brooke, who admits that her group was heavily inspired by TLC. She gave T-Boz and Chilli a stripped back acoustic rendition of their first Billboard #1, 1994’s “Creep“.
“You made it extra sexy”, Chilli says to Ally. “T can’t make it that sexy”. T-Boz laughs and defends herself saying, “I don’t get sexy like that, you know what I’m saying!” T-Boz states that “a lot of producers have tried to put their own spin on that song and failed, so you’re the first person to do that song justice”, she told Ally.
Country duo Locash were next up to perform for the girls. They throw in a banjo and a fiddle to take on the major TLC hit, 1999’s “No Scrubs“.
T-Boz tells the group how much she loved the inclusion of the banjo during the hook and how they managed to keep the hip-hop essence of the song. Chilli co-signs, saying it was excellent.
Touching on how the artists have done so far, TLC feel these are the best covers they’ve heard to date. “They’ve done our songs better than any artist that I’ve ever heard do it”, T-Boz admits. “Real talk!”, Chilli agrees.
Pop singer MAX is up next to perform for the girls. He opens up about enjoying seeing them perform live at the Firefly festival before he performs a laid back rendition of their iconic hit, 1992’s “Baby-Baby-Baby“.
The girls loved his version of their hit. “The way you did the bridge mixed with the harmonies, and [the guitarist] did the ad libs in the background, I love that”, T-Boz gushes. “The guitar made it super sexy. The way you performed it was really sexy”, Chilli adds.
Last but not least were hip-hop duo siblings Ceraadi, who consider themselves underdogs who are very influenced by TLC. The sisters decided to perform the groundbreaking classic, 1995’s “Waterfalls“, complete with their own unique spin on Left Eye‘s iconic rap.
The rap sounded very much like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, which made T-Boz and Chilli feel a little emotional. “At first, when you were rapping I had to say wait a minute, that’s not Lisa is it? It threw me off a little bit — the tone is really close”, Chilli admits. “It made me a little tearful because, that’s my sister”. “The way you changed the octave on ‘moving too fast’, loved it”, T-Boz adds.
After taking some time to decide who they wanted to choose to collaborate with at the end of the show, T-Boz and Chilli jointly decide to pick country duo Locash for a special performance of their 1999 hit, “Unpretty“.
Verzuz has quickly become one of the most powerful quarantine-friendly entertainment platforms going. Ever since March 2020, music artists have been having a blast taking part in Verzuz challenges, set up by Timbaland and Swizz Beats. In this online series on Instagram, two artists engage in a face off with a selection of their biggest hits for a friendly competition with each other.
In the past, the series has featured some memorable battles, kicking off with The-Dream vs Sean Garrett, Ne-Yo vs Johnta Austin, Ryan Tedder vs Benny Blanco, Scott Storch vs Mannie Fresh, T-Pain vs Lil’ Jon, Erykah Badu vs Jill Scott, Nelly vs Ludacris, Bounty Killer vs Beenie Man, 112 vs Jagged Edge, and most notably the Babyface vs Teddy Riley battle, which was infamously overwhelmed with technical difficulties and over performing on Teddy’s side. Once they rescheduled and ironed out the kinks, the show later ran smoothly, much to the delight of the fans.
The Verzuz Instagram highlighted a comment Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins made this week on a post regarding a TLC Verzuz battle with the girl groups SWV and Xscape, which she co-signed and it went viral on the blogs. Since then, thousands of fans have shown their approval to the suggestion. “Text us at (718) 866 -1775 and tell us“, Verzuz stated on the post.
The suggestion was actually presented to her last month on her 50th birthday (April 26), by her brother Carnoy “Koko” Watkins. He suggested that TLC should do a Verzuz battle with Destiny’s Child, although Tionne initially protested and said there are other groups besides them.
“That would be fun“, T-Boz said. “It would have to be in a ‘nice and love’ way, a friendly competition.” The Spice Girls could also be considered, as a battle between the two biggest-selling girl groups in the world would be an iconic moment.
Girl groups aside, TLC could even battle a male group. With the strength of their solid catalog, they have the capabilities the battle against boy and girl groups. Candidates like Boyz II Men and BBD, who were also considered to be their competition at the peak of their careers.
Not only is being part of a Verzuz battle great for the culture, it will also give the featured artists a major boost in their music sales and streams. Jill Scott and Erykah Badu saw their streams triple after their battle on May 9, whilst Babyface saw his Instagram followers rocket from a modest 420k to 1.1 million, after his rescheduled battle with Teddy Riley on April 20. This is now known as the Verzuz effect.
“A lot of people call it battles — we’re battling enough in the world today“, Swizz Beats said about the Verzuz series. “Let’s flip it around by celebrating each other with these amazing songs that changed the world“.
Who do you think TLC should do a Verzuz battle with? Vote below!
The legendary hip-hop producer and So So Def founder Jermaine Dupri took part in T.I.‘s latest podcast episode of ExpidiTIously (April 2) to discuss his career from the very beginning of his early years in Atlanta.
Dupri touches on the moment Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes came into his life as a solo artist from Philadelphia, who had nowhere to stay, so she used to sleep in his closet which had been transformed into a vocal booth. JD had gotten himself a reputation as ‘the dude with all the studio equipment’, which attracted a lot of up and coming artists that were often introduced to him by music mogul Ian Burke.
Lisa and Jermaine began writing songs for Kris Kross, Dupri’s latest teenage rap duo he discovered in a shopping mall, comprised of Chris Smith and Chris Kelly. “Lisa was helping me write these songs [for Kris Kross], and we wrote this song called ‘The Girl Is Mine‘, where I sampled Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney“, JD recalls. “Chris and Chris were arguing over Left Eye, and she rapped to them. This was my mindset of the single. I was like, “This is it, this is the single. Two little boys arguing over this girl. She’s grown, ya’ll little. That concept didn’t work”. The duo weren’t feeling it so the song was scrapped.
Lisa would sometimes even beg for money at the local airport. “She went to Hartsfield Airport every day and posed as one of them kids who needed money for a church to make money”, JD recalls. “She would come back to me and say, “Look at all this money that I got! I made the sign, they give me the money“. She would come back with $200, $400. She figured it out”.
Lisa expressed her creative ideas very early on as she inspired Jermaine to think outside of the box, which helped the fashion of Kris Kross. “She just wanted to make music. She could rap, I like her — mentally she could write. She was talking to me about concepts”, JD says. “I was very intrigued with the fact that she would come up with things that we should do — like, cut your eyebrows off! We had the parts in the eyebrow, and then I had three parts for like a month. I was like, what next? She would say shave the whole eyebrow off and just have one!”
“We’re in this room just trying to think of shit. That’s how the backwards jeans came about. Like, “JD, go get a nose ring, that shit is cold!“. Left Eye was the heartbeat of me trying to do things, her and my conversations and her and Chris and Chris’ conversations with her. In the end, that was the crew — Ian, Left Eye, Chris and Chris and Jermaine. We were the unstoppable team that didn’t have nothing — that was the first So So Def!”
A few days before the podcast was released, Jermaine shared an article on his Instagram (March 31) in which he declared his regrets at not taking TLC under his wings at the same time as Kris Kross. “I was only 19 years old at the time and didn’t believe in myself as a person, as someone having the bandwidth to have both artists”, he admits. “I was putting so much energy into Kris Kross, and I was only giving TLC maybe 30 to 40 percent, not even 50 percent”.
“I felt that I was spreading myself thin by trying to provide both of these groups with what they needed to become the successes that they eventually both grew to become”, he continues. “So I eliminated myself from TLC being a group that I actually introduced to the world”. In the meantime, an encounter with Pebbles at a hair salon Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins worked at led to TLC being signed to LaFace Records instead.
Although he wasn’t quite ready to sign TLC in the early 90’s, he continued to play a big role in their sound, producing on their first three studio albums, including favourites like “Switch”, “Kick Your Game”, “My Life” and “Bad By Myself“. Jermaine was also responsible for conditioning T-Boz to sing in her iconic lower register. “Tionne would sing high, and Tionne would sing low”, Lisa explained on MTV in 1995. “But when Tionne sang low, Jermaine called it scruffy and said that is dope, let that be you, your voice, what you’re known for”.
Despite Jermaine having some success with his first girl group Silk Tymes Leather (whose member Dyonna “Diamond X” Lewis went on to become DJ Dolemix for TLC in their early days), and his missing out on signing TLC led him to having luck in the third attempt at working with a girl group, when Ian Burke introduced him to Xscape, who sang at his birthday party and he vowed to sign them. They were the first act on his own label, So So Def, a joint venture with Sony and Columbia which also homed Da Brat, Jagged Edge, 3LW and Bow Wow.
Do you think TLC should have signed to Jermaine’s So So Def label?