In the words of the late Natina Reed, “Blaque is back again!“
The protegé’s of TLC‘s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Blaque (Believing in Life and Achieving a Quest of Unity in Everything), are gearing up for the release of their 3rd studio album, ‘Torch‘, on all digital platforms on May 31, 2019 to mark their 20th anniversary since their debut in 1999.
To celebrate the release this week, group member Brandi D. Williams sat down with The SoulBack R&B Podcast to discuss the making of ‘Torch’, her feelings on the music industry and what the future holds for Blaque.
Thoughts on the debut Blaque album
I can’t believe it’s been twenty years! It blows my mind when we even say that. One of my fondest memories was just actually buying the album when they had record stores twenty years ago! Shamari and I went to — I think it was Blockbuster Music or something at the time, we ran in and bought the album. It was an exciting time.
Working with *NSYNC
They’re like our brothers. Not just on the song (“Bring It All To Me“) — we were fortunate enough to tour with them. So, our very first tour was opening for them. Just to be able to gain their fanbase, and then we were able to release a record with them, it was just incredible. We had the same management at the time, Johnny Wright, so we were like one big family. They really embraced us. When the album went platinum they sent us roses, we were grateful to be a part of their lives and careers and same, they were a part of ours.
‘Blaque Out’ album
We love the ‘Blaque Out‘ album, that was one of our favorite albums that we recorded! We executive produced that album, so shout out to the ‘Blaque Out’ album! It’s crazy that “Questions” isn’t on the Spotify/iTunes version of the album. We actually wrote it, which is another song our fans love and adore. We’ll have to look into that because I didn’t know that.
Inspiration behind socially conscious songs
We were very conscious young ladies growing up. We always wanted to bring people together, just love and give love and show love, and show people that that’s what this world is about. So, we wanted to make sure that was being conveyed on our album when we put it out.
Blaque’s vocal chemistry
Shamari is incredibly talented and I learned a lot from her. Just being able to grow with her and watch her as an artist and her vocal ability is crazy. I’ve been watching her since I was twelve years old. I come from a long list of entertainers. My Dad taught me how to become an excellent person to hear harmonies and just have a strong ear, so if I was doing background or a lead that they were strong, present and felt. So, hopefully I accomplished that.
It’s about a puzzle. A group is a group. It’s not about one person. It’s not a ‘I’, ‘me’ show. It’s not the Brandi album, it’s not the Shamari album, or not the Natina album, it was a group. So, we all knew how to play our parts and positions. When it was time for somebody to step up and do something different, we all had to back each other up. That’s what it takes to be a real group member, is to know where you fall in line. When it’s time to step up, you step up, but don’t forget that it’s a group, at the end of the day.
Relationship with Shamari
We’re sisters, for sure. It doesn’t start or end with Blaque. We’ve been in each others lives since I was twelve years old. She’s the best big sister I could ever have. She’s married and had two adorable twins. I’ve learned a lot from her, as a woman and a vocalist. I’m the godmother to the boys and we’re a real family.
Shout out to the Blaque fans because they have been riding with us for twenty years! So, we are thankful and grateful for them. We will forever be grateful that they still care and wanna hear and see and champion for us. We could not do this without you guys, at all! They could have been like, ‘been there, done that‘. They could look at us like one hit wonders or whatever, but they don’t! They feel like we made an impact in our time and they still wanna hear us, see us, love on us and continue to support us. And we love them. We hope we’re making them happy and proud. We’re continuing to move forward and putting this ‘Torch’ album out, and I hope that they love it.
Favorite Blaque songs
It changes through the years, I guess. My very first favorite song when we put the album out was “Leny“. I love “Rainbow Drive“. “808” is probably my favorite right now because I just love how the drums are on the track, it’s incredible. I had to learn to appreciate that song, I didn’t really like it when we first recorded it, I felt like it was super urban and really wasn’t us, but it was a big song for us, and we’re thankful for it, and I love it, now.
The ‘Torch’ album is actually the very last studio, label album that we recorded with Natina. So, this is pretty much the last album you’re gonna get with the three of us, which is super special. We recorded this album when we were signed to Elektra Records. Sylvia Rhone was the president at the time, and some things happened over there. Label heads got changed, and she was the person looking over our project. So, when she moved to a different company, they decided to drop a lot of her artists, and we were one of them. But the blessing of that situation was that they gave us our album, so we actually own the album.
Losing Natina, and trying to figure out what to do next, our fans just kept saying, ‘hey guys, we really want this album’, they put a petition out, like ‘hey can we get this album?’ and Shamari and I was like, instead of putting out an album with just the two of us, let’s give the fans what they’ve been asking for, for the last ten years!
They’ve been asking for this album since before Natina passed away, it’s been crazy. We were like, our 20th anniversary is coming, what better way to give our fans what they’ve been asking for, forever and celebrate with them with this album. So, we’re really excited!
Thoughts on the ‘Torch’ sound
I’m really nervous about it. It’s not our favorite, it was really driven by Sylvia and the label. They picked a lot of the producers and writers that we worked with, so it’s not like we had a big hand in creating it. But now when I listen to it, it’s not as bad as I thought. Everybody loves it that’s heard it, so far. They’re like, it sounds like you guys recorded it today and it doesn’t sound as old as it is. So, that makes me feel good about it. I just can’t wait to see what happens on the 31st (May).
Why ‘I’m Good’ isn’t on ‘Torch’
We had a couple of strong singles [in 2003], like ‘I’m Good‘, which is actually not a part of the album, but they used it like an introduction, like ‘here’s the new Blaque, we’re gonna put a single out through ‘Honey‘ [movie soundtrack]’, then they dropped ‘Ugly‘, which Missy Elliott did. I think it would have set us up to do more great music in the industry [if ‘Torch’ was released in 2003]‘. It would have set us up on another level. But for people to feel like this album sounds like we recorded it today, means that it was God’s plan that it should come out now and not then, so I’m grateful for that.
Music evolution with new generation
My sister, Kodie Shane, is a part of the new generation of music now, and I watch her record and it’s a different process. How the song is structured and how they sound. But, different is good! It’s evolving, and it should not be how it was twenty years ago. A lot of people are like it’s not real music, but it’s their music, and it’s our music, so we should embrace that, instead of trying to keep hold of what was. We have to embrace what is. I appreciate that they are taking where we started and laid the foundations to, and turning it into what they want it to be. That’s what you do, that’s how growth happens.
New Blaque music
We will definitely be releasing some new music after we’ve had a good run with ‘Torch’. But first we really want to do this first. I feel like our fans would be like, ‘okay, we love this new stuff, but where is Torch?’ So, we just wanna give them what they’ve been asking for, then say okay you’ve got what you want, now here’s some new stuff!
You can pre-order Blaque’s long-awaited ‘Torch’ album HERE
Missy Elliott, who has a history of writing and producing some of pop music’s most creative and catchy songs, breaks down some of the hits she’s written for herself and other stars. Elliott is one of the nominees for the 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame.
702, “Where My Girls At?”
702’s “Where My Girls At?” reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 chart in 1999, but Elliott said she initially wrote the anthem for TLC.
“Lisa (“Left Eye” Lopes) really wanted it, she really wanted that record, but I guess, if it’s two against one (what can you do?)” So I ended up giving that record to 702, which was cool because they were a group. I knew whoever had it, I wanted it to be going to a group.”
Of the biggest songs of 1999, “Where My Girls At?” was ranked No. 11 by Billboard. Elliott said she wanted women to feel empowered when they heard the fun track.
“It’s almost like church — when you go to church, pastor is saying something (and you’re) like, ‘I swear up and down that message is for me.’ I wanted to create something women could feel like, ‘I could relate to this record.’”
For more on Missy Elliott’s produced hits for other artists you can read the full article on The Detroit News.
Update — BLAQUE announced the release date for ‘Torch’ will be May 31, 2019!
The girls made the announcement on Facebook today (May 4, 2019).
After years of disappointments, false hopes and petitioning, the ladies of the group Blaque (discovered by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) have finally delivered fans the news they have all been waiting for — they will be releasing their previously unreleased album Torch!
Torch was recorded back in 2003 as a follow-up to their second album, Blaque Out (which was also heavily delayed due to record label conflicts). Torch was scheduled to be released on Elektra Records in 2004, but the girls were instead released from their record contract, leaving the completed album unreleased.
Fans have been demanding the album to be released for many years. Our friends at Dimension TLC even put together a petition to get the album heard. This got the attention of the remaining Blaque members, Shamari DeVoe and Brandi Williams, and they are listening!
On October 28, the birthday of the late Natina Reed, Shamari and Brandi decided host the first Remembering Natina annual party to celebrate her life, and announced to the world that they were going to release the Torch album in full, very soon!
Dimension TLC owner James posted the announcement in the Blaque Out! chat group on Facebook. “Our true Blaque fans!“, Brandi said excitedly to the crowd. “Y’all know about that Torch album? Y’all have been asking, y’all have been petitioning, y’all have been dying to know what happened to Torch.”
“Well tonight“, Brandi continued, “on our sisters birthday, we have decided to let everyone know that Torch will be released very soon!”.
“Not just the snippets, but the FULL album!”, Shamari insisted. “Every single song. We just copped the masters for Torch! We are releasing Torch!”.
The Torch album features a fitting tribute to their idol Left Eye on a track titled “Her Name”. The singles “Ugly” (featuring Missy Elliott) and “I’m Good” from the Honey soundtrack are also on the tracklist.
Shamari has been cast in the latest season of TheReal Housewives of Atlanta. With the show still reeling in record viewing numbers, we’re pretty certain this will attract more fans back to Blaque!
“Oh that was Missy Elliott!“, T-Boz exclaimed when asked about the mystery feature. “I love her dearly, but it was just a matter of politics taking too long. We needed to put the album out for the fans. I want to make it clear – it had nothing to do with her! I’m glad we are free from all that industry stuff now. I don’t have the patience.“
During the interview, T-Boz answered a lot of questions fans have been wondering.
“Honestly, I’ve never separated people like that. I love our LGBTQ fans, but I don’t look at it like, ‘We have two different fan groups. Those are my gay fans, and those are my straight fans.’ If I can touch people with my music, then that makes me happy. From the get-go I’ve always told people to be themselves and stand up for themselves. I guess that resonates more with the LGBTQ community and I’m all for that. People need to be cool in their own skin.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race
“[Appearing on the show] That’s totally up to them. I would definitely come! Helloooo! I would love to be a judge and I personally love RuPaul. We worked with his make-up artist, Mathu Andersen, on the ‘No Scrubs’ video. I specifically asked for someone who knew how to do drag make-up, because I’ve always been so mesmerised by it. I wanted that kind of make-up and Mathu was perfect.”
T-Boz Unplugged 2018
“One thing we are working on is a Las Vegas residency. We are also doing ‘T-Boz Unplugged’ on 14th October in L.A. It raises awareness and funds for kids growing up with sickle cell. It’s at Avalon. You can find out more and make donations at www.tbozunplugged.com. It’s awesome because the foundation teaches kids about holistic remedies and acupuncture, not just being on all that medication which keeps us in a weakened state. Also how to build your up body, in an organic way.”