Announcement, Interview, News

TLC Say Their Ideal Choice For Verzuz Would Be Boyz II Men or BBD / T-Boz Clears Up Misconceptions

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TLC are the epitome of girl power! So much so, that they never see other female groups as competition and always give props to their peers. Instead, they would rather go head-to-head with male groups like Boyz II Men, who were just as successful as TLC at the peak of their careers in the 90’s.

TLC would playfully rival Boyz II Men with their succeses, trying to outdo each others’ record sales. To this date, they both have the same amount of top ten Billboard hits and number one singles. When it came to the groups like SWV, En Vogue and Xscape, TLC had nothing but support and respect for them.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas were special guests on T.I‘s hit podcast ‘ExpediTIously‘ (recorded back in April shortly after Tionne’s 50th Birthday when the COVID-19 lockdown began) airing on August 13, 2020 to set the record straight on a number of things — one thing specifically being to clear up a misconception that his previous guest Jermaine Dupri put out, stating that he was the reason T-Boz got her iconic low register singing style.

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“The reason why it’s important for me to say something, as a black woman in this industry — for both of us to not sleep our way up, suck our way up, and for me to do this off of my talent”, Tionne states regarding her statement. “Certain accolades that you’ve worked hard for, you can’t let people take that from you”.

“The other day when JD was on your show — some things were very inaccurate. It was like a revision of history — that’s when somebody changes what happened in the past and makes it different. I have proof, facts are facts.” Tionne goes on to state that she appreciates what Jermaine did for her, but she wants to set the record straight on how she started her deep singing style, auditioning for Ian Burke and Rico Wade before Jermaine had ever heard her sing.

“When I first met Lisa in Second Nature, Rico and Ian came to my house because a girl named Crystal wanted to start a group”, Tionne says. “Lisa stayed out in the car, so I hadn’t met her yet (she was QT at the time). When they came in I did my dance, my ATL thing.” She sang the 1987 hit song “Still A Thrill” by Jody Watley, which also helped her know she can sing deep, and 1990’s “Wanna Get With U” by Guy. “I was rocking the low notes since I was 17 years old”.

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T-Boz in 2nd Nature with Lisa and Crystal in 1990

Jermaine hearing T-Boz singing deep led him to place her on demo’s for his upcoming group at the time, Kris Kross. Tionne praised JD for helping her feel comfortable singing low after producing her first demo, “I Got It Goin’ On“, and not fearing being called gay for singing deep.

“I came out [with TLC] and they thought I was gay anyway because of the way I was dressed, but back then I didn’t wanna fight a fight that wasn’t mine, but my mom said it doesn’t matter what people think, as long as you and God know”, Tionne says. “So JD did have a good idea to just keep it as my thing. He made me feel confident doing something that I was already doing and it turned out to be great for us”.

After this week’s highly anticipated Verzuz episode with Brandy vs Monica, is the world any closer to receiving a TLC Verzuz episode? Musicians like SWV and Xscape have offered to go up against TLC in a Verzuz battle, but TLC have other plans for the suggestions. “People compare us to other girl groups just because we’re girls, but I think we’re all different”, Tionne states. “In my opinion, we never like to be compared to females — there’s no competition, we support each other”, Chilli adds. “We felt our competition was more with boy bands, so I’d say maybe TLC against Boyz II Men or something”.

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Previous Verzuz ideas with SWV and Xscape

T-Boz reminds us that they have always shared love with the females, by adding Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child and Blaque as openers to the FanMail tour in 2000. “We were never in competition with them”, she insists. As for the Boyz II Men Verzuz, T-Boz had this to say to them, “We’re calling you out, come get some! Let’s go, Verzuz!”

Dealing with coronavirus

Chilli: We have a lot of TV stuff we’re working on behind the scenes. Sadly, we’re supposed to be on the road right now. The tours are all cancelled until next year. Hopefully they find a vaccine soon or something.

T-Boz: I’m scared to take it, I’m not taking it!

Chilli: I get the flu shot every year, I don’t play! I’m not opposed to a vaccine, I just don’t want to be the first to take it! I’ll wait a while. Get oregano oil and cod liver oil [to boost your immune system]. Regardless of the news, they do not understand this stuff. When I go to the grocery store, masked up and keeping my distance —

T-Boz: Respecting the rules!

Chilli: A couple of people I’ve had to tell to get back. But even kids with nothing on, it doesn’t have to be a professional mask. We need to take this seriously. Boost your immune system and stay safe.

T-Boz: On a serious note, there’s people like me with sickle cell disease with no cure; my mom has cancer right now and my daughter has Lupus. It suppresses our immune system. So there’s people like us who can’t fight off stuff like that who can die. So, when you’re not respecting the rules you affect people’s lives tremendously, people like me who can’t afford to catch anything.

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Spitting bars and group roles

T-Boz: Lisa was always the rapper. But we did a [rap] song on the first album.

Chilli: Marley Marl! Do you remember him, the producer? We did a song with him, and said you should all rap. I was shaking in my boots!

T-Boz: I sounded like a man! I sound manly as hell! I know why they thought I was gay now, they were coming for me!

Chilli: I was very proud of my rap, I was so excited, it came out good. Lisa told me that she was proud of me. That’s the only time that happened. Everybody came in the group already doing their thing. Lisa was a rapper, she doesn’t sing. That’s the special thing about this group, we were like three solo artists put together, and it just works. That’s our formula. We respect each others lanes.

Beating SWV to be called TLC

T-Boz: What’s funny is SWV were TLC at first [Taj, Lelee, Coko]. But they didn’t legally lock it in, so Pebbles got it. So they became Sisters With Voices.

Chilli: That was the name of their group, yes. It was like whoever came out first. We just happened to beat them to the punch with that one.

What are your thoughts on TLC Verzuz with Boyz II Men or BBD?

History, Interview, News

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

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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

Interview, Music, News

Jermaine Dupri: “Left Eye & Kris Kross Were The Original So So Def” and Regrets Not Signing TLC!

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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.

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Chilli and Left Eye with DJ Dolemix on the TLC video set “Baby-Baby-Baby” in 1992

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!”

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Left Eye with Xscape members Kandi and Tiny on the set of Xscape “Am I Dreaming” in 1998

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”.

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

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?

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TLC with Teddy Riley, Kris Kross and Jermaine Dupri
Interview, Relationships

Da Brat: “Left Eye Did Not Like Me At First”

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So So Def‘s first lady, Da Brat, recently opened up about her initial friendship with the ‘L’ of TLC, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, back when she first came onto the scene in 1994!

Da Brat was speaking about the so-called rivalry with Left Eye, in response to Tyra Banks’ recent comments to the Wall Street Journal about how she felt intimidated by Naomi Campbell when she first started modelling. Tyra felt Naomi was doing everything in her power to make her go away, due to the fear of having similar competition.

Da Brat feels she can relate to Tyra because of her experiences with Left Eye. “When I first came in the game, when I first came to Atlanta and got with Jermaine Dupri and So So Def, I loved Left Eye. I wanted to be Left Eye, I loved her”, Da Brat tells her co-hosts Headkrack and Porsha Williams on Dish Nation.

“She did not like me! And when I tell you I cried and I cried”. Da Brat even talked to Lisa’s group mate, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, about how she was feeling about not being accepted by her idol. “I talked to T-Boz and I was like, ‘why doesn’t she like me?’ Cause I loved her. I just felt like I was so much like her. And, ooh, she did not like me”.

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Da Brat, who has a re-occurring role in WE TV’s ‘Growing Up Hip-Hop: Atlanta‘, touched on some of the deep-rooted reasons that may have triggered the initial bitterness. “She was like Jermaine Dupri’s first rap female artist, and it was just that thing there. I didn’t understand coming from Chicago, being raised by my Grandma and loving everybody. I was like ‘oh my God, Left Eye!’, and she was like — [frowns]”.

Jermaine Dupri was introduced to Left Eye in 1990 by Ian Burke, as part of the group 2nd Nature, before being renamed TLC.

As documented in the JD WE TV special, TLC were initially brought to Dupri to be signed, but his label wasn’t ready at the time, leaving the girls to sign with LaFace and Dupri to find another group and female rap artist for his So So Def label, which launched in 1993.

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Ladies Night: (L-R) Da Brat, Angie Martinez, Missy Elliott, Lance ‘Un’ Rivera, Left Eye & Lil’ Kim (1997)

Thankfully, the ladies squashed their differences and were able to bless us with the iconic collaboration remix to Lil’ Kim‘s “Not Tonight (Ladies Night)” in 1997, for the Nothing To Lose soundtrack.

“I was so hurt. I know how Tyra feels”, Da Brat continues. “We were cool [by the time ‘Ladies Night’ came out], but she was not fond of me at first”.

What are your thoughts on Da Brat’s initial rejection by Left Eye?  Does society always pit women against each other?