It has almost been 20 years since the release of TLC‘s 3rd masterpiece, ‘FanMail‘, in February 1999.
The first thing that stood out about the album before hearing any of the music was the eye-catching, stunning, futuristic visuals, which features T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli each shown with a metallic silver skin tone.
Fans can be forgiven for thinking the silver-skinned effects were digitally enhanced and created with computer trickery on the album cover.
But the reality is, the girls were actually physically painted silver on the Seb Janiak photoshoot in 1998!
Music executive Shanti Das shared an insightful throwback photo on her Instagram of herself onset with TLC, whilst they were in the process of being painted silver for the futuristic look, which set the tone for the album’s pre-millenium feels.
TLC had the pleasure of being chosen as the headline act at this years Mighty Hoopla festival, held at Brockwell Park in South London, which serves exclusively as TLC’s only show in the UK in 2018.
This is one of a very few occasions where a female act has been selected to headline a major music festival. Times are changing, for the better. Kudos to Mighty Hoopla for giving the girls the opportunity.
The weather held out beautifully the whole day, bringing out the best of the festival, maintaining the high spirits and eclectic atmosphere amongst the attendees.
The festival line-up boasted a female-majority roster of established artists with varied music genres, including Nadine Coyle (Girls Aloud), Louise (Eternal), Lily Allen, Belinda Carlisle and Spice Girls‘ Melanie C, who paid a loving tribute to Left Eye before performing their UK #1 duet, 2000’s “Never Be The Same Again“.
8:30PM dawned shortly after Lily Allen’s hour long set, blessing us with the main attraction: T-Boz and Chilli, with Left Eye laced effortlessly throughout the performance, in the form of photo collages and her original raps, left to play out in her memory.
From the start, the girls, both donned in beautiful golden toned outfits, set the tone of what to expect; a powerful, high energized trip down memory lane, opening with their debut 1992 hits, “What About Your Friends?” and “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg“.
They took it down a notch with the smooth “Diggin’ On You“, before upping the anté with the club anthem “Silly Ho“, slightly revamped to feature a modern beat sample from the Kendrick Lamar 2017 hit “Humble“. It went down a treat. The crowd went wild .
Rather than giving a male audience member the usual “Red Light Special” lap dance on stage, Chilli opted to invite rapper Q-Boy to dance with her during her bridge.
They took it back to 1992 with “Baby-Baby-Baby“, before diving straight back into 2017, with the anti-bully track “Haters” from their latest album.
The self-love anthem “Unpretty” came next, with the audience singing their hearts out in unison, before the girls took a short break to allow the dancers and band to show and highlight their talents.
The set features a new set of vibrant visuals, produced by the hip-hop choreography duo Nappytabs (Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo), the team behind the Jennifer Lopez Las Vegas residency and television show So You Think You Can Dance?
The opening trumpets in the Grammy winning #1 single “Creep” lit up the stage and set the tone for the excellence that followed. New track “It’s Sunny” was next, with it’s infectious chorus and Earth, Wind & Fire sample.
TLC gave their 2017 hit “Way Back” a 2018 remix, with a catchy ‘TLC’ chant and a sample of the 2001 hit “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, the latter of whom features on the song with the girls.
Chilli asked the audience if she could talk for a minute. As soon as she mentioned her frustration at guys who try to talk to her from the passengers side, the whole crowd was sent into a frenzy, as they knew it was time for “No Scrubs“!
Factors beyond their control meant their set time was delayed, therefore they couldn’t perform beyond the venues curfew, omitting the ode to the fans “Joy Ride” and “Fan Mail“.
That didn’t dent the flow of the night, as they launched into the show finalé, and Left Eye’s favorite song, “Waterfalls“, with the audience singing along loud and proud with the girls.
They bowed and thanked us all for being there, while Chilli hung around a little longer throwing love heart shapes with her hands even when the music had stopped.
One thing is for sure, after this much love from across the pond, this will not be the last time TLC will be touching down on British soils. They love us, as much as we love them.
Anything that’s self-destructive, that’s chasing a waterfall. We wanted to make a song with a strong message – about unprotected sex, being promiscuous, and hanging out in the wrong crowd. The messages in Waterfalls hit home. I think that’s why it’s our biggest hit to date.
When it first went to radio, nobody got it. They didn’t understand what we were talking about. It needed the video to bring the words to life. Even I don’t think I really fell in love with the song until I saw it. The moment I did, I knew it would be a hit.
The timing was perfect. Organized Noize produced the track. They’d been working with Outkast and Goodie Mob and that funky, soulful sound that was their signature. CeeLo Green sang backing vocals – way before he was a big star. P Diddy did some interludes on the album, CrazySexyCool, too. But obviously, once our voices got on there, it became a TLC record.
The song made us much more relevant – not just a fun girl group. We were bringing awareness to subjects people were nervous talking about. It was groundbreaking for us: from then on, we were seen as the real deal.
We definitely wanted to be role models. We felt like a lot of females didn’t have other females pulling for them – so every song we put out was a girl-power song. We told it from a woman’s point of view. Women liked that and men respected it.
AIDs is still out there. You still have bullying. You still have drugs. But you have to continue to bring awareness so that people can become more responsible and want to do the right things. You can never have too many records like Waterfalls.
Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, singer and songwriter
I always loved what you’d call alternative music. Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Duran Duran, Billy Idol. Bennie and the Jets by Elton John was my thing. I was born in Iowa and moved to Atlanta when I was a child.
Every time I tell people I’m from Iowa, they go: “There’s black people there?” I actually have a T-shirt that says: “Yes, there are black people in Iowa.”
I wanted Waterfalls to be our version of alternative music. When I heard an early version, I thought: “My god, this is perfect.” It was so left of what we’d done on our first album. It was amazeballs.
When we had finished recording it, we played it for Clive Davies, the big kahuna at the label. He was the boss of Arista, which distributed our label La Face. He didn’t like it. He said it was too deep. He didn’t think people would bump up the street to it.
So we went to LA Reid, who ran LaFace. We bought a giant poster and wrote on it: “Please believe in us, we’ll make the best video ever.” He went against Clive and put up the money. We called in F Gary Gray to direct the video.
The first time he showed us the concept – which showed a kid getting killed selling drugs and a guy contracting HIV – we started crying.
AIDS was an epidemic at the time. Not long after the song came out, I was doing a book-signing and a man came up to me and held my hand. “I didn’t kill myself because of you,” he said. “I felt like nobody understood. But I felt like you guys understood how people can end up in my situation.”
The day before recording, I’d been in a car with Lisa [“Left Eye” Lopes, who was killed in a car accident in 2002]. We saw a beautiful rainbow. That’s how her rap starts: “I seen a rainbow yesterday.” She’d been through a lot with the house burning down, she’d been locked up in the centre for drug and alcohol treatment.
That was serious, what she said was real. It was for herself and everyone else who had been down the wrong path, chased the wrong things. And she really did see that rainbow – and it made her feel good about life and remember how precious it is. That song still has meaning 25 years on.
I will never forget the day we filmed that video. I can’t swim. It was 6am and I’m on this little plastic thing in the middle of 80,000 tonnes of water, in the lake where they shot Jaws at Universal Studios. That’s why my feet are planted. I do not move. I was so worried about falling in.
When we showed the video to Clive, he was like: “I knew it would be great!” And we were looking at him like: “What? Hush up!” We eventually fired people and got out of our deal. We were so underpaid. We made a lot of people wealthy. Being a black woman in the industry means you have so much going against you.
I’m not fearful about anything. If I believe in something and want to to talk about it, then that’s what we’re doing. I’m just happy that we were able to succeed in what we set out to do – make a difference.
Cardi B performed all of her hit singles, including her recent hit “Finesse“, the record breaking “Bodak Yellow“, new single “Be Careful“, and fan favorites from her latest album, including “Drip” and “Best Life“.
Guests on stage included G-Eazy (“No Limit“), 21 Savage (“Bartier Cardi”), Kelhani (“Ring”), Chance The Rapper (“Best Life”) and YG (“She Bad”).
Congratulations for putting on a great performance, Cardi B! You didn’t miss a beat, baby bump and all!