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.

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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.