“When people ask us why, my answer is, ‘Why not?’ We’re going to do this until the wheels fall off.”
That was Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ declaration to fans who came to see TLC’s first U.S. performance in years at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pa., on July 27, signifying the beginning of a new era for the record-breaking R&B group. Having re-signed with Epic Records/LaFace and mentor Antonio “L.A.” Reid, surviving members T-Boz and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas will release a currently untitled compilation on Oct. 15 featuring the group’s hits as well as several new songs. (Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was killed in a car accident in 2002.)
Two tracks have already been penned: “Meant to Be,” written by Ne-Yo, and “Posh Life,” written by Lady Gaga and longtime TLC collaborator Dallas Austin. Other collaborations are in the works, including studio time (and a likely live show) with Drake, and some hoped-for further pairings with J. Cole, who recruited T-Boz and Chilli for current single “Crooked Smile,” which is No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On Oct. 21, VH1 will premiere “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” a biopic chronicling the rise of the group, which earned 10 top 10 singles on the Hot 100, including four No. 1s (“Waterfalls,” “Creep,” “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty”).
The moment that really had fans talking, though, was the appearance of Lil Mama rapping Left Eye’s verse on “No Scrubs” at the close of TLC’s Mixtape set. (She plays Left Eye in the film.) “We said we will never replace her,” T-Boz said from the stage, referring to an earlier press conference announcing the collaboration. “Are we clear?”
Bill Diggins, TLC’s manager since 1998, says the act has been seeking new music since November 2012 and the response from the industry has been overwhelming. T-Boz added, “Not one artist has said no, and that’s amazing and a blessing…You know, we’ve been gone for a minute. But to see everyone coming to us like, ‘Yo! We heard y’all working, I gotta be down!’ That’s amazing.”