Two Remaining Members of TLC Trio keep Left Eye's memory alive with album '3D.'Two Remaining Members of TLC Trio keep Left Eye's memory alive with album '3D.' T-Boz & Chilli in HomoXtra Magazine Left Eye in Boyz Magazine Chilli in Maxim Magazine Article on T-Boz in Rolling Out Magazine Entertainment Weekly Article: 'TLC Goes Solo.' Left Eye in Player's Magazine Chilli in Rap Up Magazine Bee, Kelly and 'Chelle on VH1.com DC and Tina Knowles interviewed by Lorraine Braco Kelly in JET magazine Article in Essence: 'Beyoncé's Destiny' Farrah in S2S Magazine Michelle Williams interviewed by Christopher Herron
FanMail, TLC's third album, paid tribute to the group's infinite fans. In its latest album, 3D, once more TLC pays a tribute. Only this time it does so for one of its own, rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, the L of TLC. The crazy of the CrazySexyCool.
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, the surviving members of TLC, honor the memory of Left Eye, whose life ended earlier this year in a car crash in Honduras. The petite performer, whose doe eyes earned her one of music's best-known stage names, died just a month shy of her 31st birthday.
T-Boz and Chilli tell JET that TLC may be a duo in body, but it remains a trio in spirit.
"We won't replace her. That won't happen," says Chilli. "We don't feel getting someone else, because it wasn't meant for anyone else to be in this group but the three of us. When you are in a group and you have that chemistry, God puts you together. You can't explain that."
The album, 3D, to be released November 12, does feature Left Eye on a number of tracks. It also pays tribute to her on the heartfelt song Turntable.
"To us she's still a part of the group," explains T-Boz. "We're making sure that her spirit is alive in everything that we do. We gave the best of ourselves that she liked."
Two years ago the trio began working on 3D, given its title by Left Eye following the group's reunion performance on an MTV special.
"She was like, `I got it y'all! 3D!' " T-Boz laughs as she remembers Left Eye's excitement. "The title is about the three dimensions of the group and each member. It's like CrazySexyCool was to the 10th power."
Forever arming herself with mountains of raps, Left Eye's rap vocals had already been recorded. The album was halfway complete when T-Boz and Chilli learned of Left Eye's death. Producers then tailored unfinished songs around her work.
"It was hard doing the songs where her raps had to be added," recalls T-Boz. "It was hard that she was not there. We were not involved in the parts where her raps had to be added because it was too emotional for us."
Chilli says they could feel Left Eye's spirit in the studio with them. "It was like she was there to help us finish this project. It was very hard and it still is hard. Sometimes we couldn't even listen to some songs because it would break us down. We would finish one song and then figure out a way to get through another one."
The album may pay tribute to Left Eye, but don't expect it to be an album loaded with down and depressing music.
"It's dedicated to our girl," says T-Boz. "Why would you want that when she was a high-spirit, upbeat girl? We want people to dance, groove and feel it. That's what she would have wanted."
TLC has seen it all since its inception in 1992 with the album Oooooh ... On The TLC Tip. That album, which sold more than 4 million copies, featured the singles Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Baby Baby Baby and What About Your Friends. Two years later the album CrazySexyCool scored big, selling 11 million copies, with the songs Waterfalls, Creep, Red Light Special and Diggin' On You.
The music successes netted the girl group such honors as Grammy Awards, American Music Awards and the distinction of selling more albums than any female trio in history. But fame came at a price.
"We've gone through so much as a group. It's a trip," Chilli laments. "We've gone through everything from the beginning until now. It's like anything that you can think of, good or bad, has happened to us. Losing Lisa is the worst ever. But at the same time, through it all, God has always been on our side."
The group was forthright when discussing its four-year hiatus before its 1999 release of FanMail. A period marred by bankruptcy and a fractured relationship with LaFace Records and its management company. The ladies still managed to return stronger and better.
"I'm not angry about anything that I've been through. I'm glad I learned early on instead of now in my 30s," says T-Boz. "Just as long as you learn from your mistakes and not keep bumping your head. Don't let the industry take over you - you learn to take over it."
FanMail won the group more adulation with the songs No Scrubs and Unpretty. The group was back on top. With its money problems mended, fans were eager and waiting for another project. But following the release of FanMail, Left Eye reportedly expressed displeasure with the album. Then word circulated that the group had broken up.
"Lisa was a pro when dealing with the media. Any press was good press in her eyes," Chilli chuckles of Left Eye's ingenious ways. "Like challenging us to do solo albums. She said, `let's mess with the media.' That's something she got involved in. I can understand people wondering if we broke up because every time you read something it was, `ooh, TLC had a fight. Lisa is going to leave the group. She's doing a solo album.' When she worked on her solo project, we supported that. We never broke up. Yes, we had issues in our group, but we were like sisters. Like any family that is close, you love each other. But you won't always agree on the same thing. You agree to disagree."
T-Boz echoes Chilli's thoughts. "It was true love. Disagreements don't take love out of your heart. That's the biggest misconception about TLC."
Juggling a demanding music career, T-Boz and Chilli must also balance life on the home front. T-Boz and her husband of nearly three years, rapper Mack 10, are the parents of a 2-year-old daughter, Chase. T-Boz, who suffers from Sickle Cell, also continues to work with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America as its national spokesperson.
And, Chilli is the mother of a 5-year-old son, Tron, whose father is noted producer Dallas Austin. Her high-profile romance with Usher has generated steam. She won't get into the details of their relationship. She simply giggles and blushes when the question of marriage surfaces. "I don't know. I'm not saying anything. We just love each other."
With all that TLC has endured, T-Boz and Chilli know that their toughest days lie ahead. Performing without Left Eye. Missing the energy of their "sister."
"She will be represented and respected in everything that we do," assures T-Boz. "She was pleased with the album when she passed. She would be happy now. We know our sister. We know things about each other that nobody else knows but us."
Adds Chilli, "I really think Lisa is going to be proud of us. She's already proud of us and smiling down. Her spirit will carry us through."