Nearly 11 years after their last studio album, “3D,” TLC is prepping a massive comeback that will include new music, a VH1 biopic and live performances that will include “special guest” Lil Mama temporarily filling the shoes of the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Current members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas made the announcements alongside manager Bill Diggins and VH1’s Rick Krim at a press conference Thursday morning (July 25) in New York.
Part of the resurgence includes the news that TLC has resigned with mentor L.A. Reid and Epic Records/LaFace, and will release an as-yet-untitled compilation Oct. 15 featuring the group’s hits as well as a collection of new songs. 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 new songs and collaborations are in the works, the group added, including some 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.”
Diggins, TLC’s manager since 1998, told Billboard the band has been seeking new music since November 2012 and the response from the industry has been overwhelming. Added T-Boz, “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.”
Monday, Oct. 21, will also see the VH1 premiere of “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” a biopic chronicling the rise of the group, written by Kate Lanier (“What’s Love Got To Do With It”), directed by Charles Stone III (“Drumline”) and executive produced by T-Boz and Chilli. Keke Palmer (“True Jackson: VP”), Drew Sidora (“Step Up”) and rapper Lil Mama (“Lip Gloss”) will portray Chilli, T-Boz and Left Eye, respectively, and a trailer unveiled Thursday shows how uncanny the actresses’ resemblances and shot-for-shot recreations of iconic videos for “Creep,” “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs” really are.
The founding members were apparently so impressed with Lil Mama’s performance that they invited the rapper to make a special appearance with them at Saturday’s Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Penn., where VH1 is also a presenting sponsor. T-Boz noted the girls have “toyed around with some ideas” for future appearances and collaborations with Lil Mama, but “no one will ever be a member in this group. Ever.”
Added Chilli, “We love that she still has her own thing. It’s still kind of of out there, but I love it. We love it. I love her personality. She’s just so creative and sweet.”
The importance and pressure of carrying the torch for Left Eye’s legacy was not lost on Lil Mama, either, who reiterated that she was not replacing the rapper. “Every time I think of Lisa I think of an old woman, a grandmother who passes on and leaves a jewelry box of things she collected. The family probably fights about it, probably says don’t touch it,” she said. “I feel like that with Lisa’s career. She left behind a legacy in her music and her style that people feel like, ‘don’t touch that.’ And it’s an honor to be chosen by her sisters, to say ‘hey you got it, don’t worry about what nobody else says. Make us proud.’”
“Meant To Be” will be the end-title song as well as catch-phrase for “The TLC Story,” referencing an empowerment slogan the girls had for each other before shows (“MTB,” as they refer to it in the trailer.) Diggins added that Ne-Yo was given the phrase as his only brief for writing the song. “Ne-Yo was able to tap into our whole vibe. It seemed like he’d been around us forever and he hadn’t,” Chilli said of the song.
TLC accumulated ten top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including four No. 1s (“Waterfalls,” “Creep,” “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty”), a No. 1 album (“FanMail”) and another that still holds the record for top-selling album by a female group in the U.S. (“CrazySexyCool,” with domestic sales of 11 million and 23 million worldwide.)