After filing for bankruptcy, disagreements with producers and the loss of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, TLC remain as resilient as ever.
Having proven their staying power in the music industry time and again, the duo – Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas – are in South Africa for the first time to take part in the Soul Fest concert series featuring fellow ’90s R&B groups Dru Hill and SWV. They perform in Johannesburg tomorrow, Durban on Sunday and Cape Town on Tuesday.
Some might say they’re past their sell-by date, but they’re determined to prove their haters wrong, while giving their diehard fans a show of a lifetime. With hits like No Scrubs, Waterfalls and Creep, this award-winning R&B group are here to stake their claim as one of the best female groups in the world.
What legacy do you want TLC to leave behind?
T-Boz: The lives that we changed through our music. Strong content for one, being trend setters, being strong enough to stand against all who came against us, especially being women in a then male-dominated industry. For us to still be able to stay strong and stand strong among them all, even after losing a group member and a sister and still rising above that and having a second wind to still sell-out shows and travel even when people counted us out, to show that it’s not really over when tragedy happens.
You’ve gone through so much as a group. To what do you owe your resilience?
Chilli: I think we just have to give all the glory to God because TLC is definitely meant to be. It’m not just saying this because I’m a part of the group, but it’s something that I saw a long time ago. We have a special chemistry that is either naturally there or is not. You can’t put it together. We love what we do, still, and that is a big part of it. I have seen many artists who were once crazy on stage and when you see them perform now, it’s like they don’t have the hunger or love anymore. They’re just doing it for the cheque and you can see it and the fans can tell also. We always say when we get tired or when we’re not nervous when we get on the stage, then we’ll know it’s time to hang it up. That’s not where we are.
Tboz: But I think also Lisa passing away didn’t take away our ability to sing and dance either. it just changed the dynamic of the group. You have to find whatever your new normal is and make that work and I think that’s what we did. I think it’s unfair for people to go: “Oh, it’s over.” Not when in my soul or in her soul, we still are entertainers, that’s what we want to do, that’s our dream. When you fight for something and you build something, you don’t just let it get away. You fight to keep that. The only way I see not letting it happen is if it’s God will and I don’t think that’s the answer. That’s why we are still sitting here.
You have fans who grew up listening to your music who will readily say music today isn’t what it used to be. What do you think of the state of R&B today?
Chilli: For me, it seems like what’s going on now is rap. It’s sort of like the pop music of this generation and for us, we don’t like to put ourselves in any sort of category because we fit in every one of them. We like to call our music TLC music. It’s a TLC sound. It’s like we have our own thing that’s very different from anybody else, but I think that everything comes back around and has its timing and right now, rap may be the popular music, but that will die out and something else will come back to life.
T-Boz: I like to call it universal because I think we have a little bit of everything for everybody. I don’t think it has an age or a number on it. My teenage daughter and I were listening to the Jackson 5 and she was like: “Mum, that’s sounds like it came out today” and I said that’s because good music is timeless. If you have timeless music, that doesn’t have age on it, from the little ones (people) to the old ones, if it’s good music, anyone will like it. I just like our music because it lives and I don’t think you have to put an age on it.
Chilli: And as an artist, when you go into the studio to make music and live your dream of performing, you hope and pray that you have music that is timeless because only time tells that. You don’t really know, even when it’s number one for now, but time tells you if you have timeless music. That’s what we all strive for.