TLC On the eve of their self-titled final album, Tionne “T-boz” Watkins, 47, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, 46, look back on the hits that made them a 1990s girl-group powerhouse with the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. (Out June 30) —Chuck Arnold
Then: T-boz, Left Eye and Chilli in the early 1990s and now (inset, above).
“I was feeling down because I had just gotten out of hospital [for sicklecell anaemia treatment],” says T-boz, who was diagnosed with the disorder as a child. “I was really bruised and frail because I had lost a lot of weight. My boyfriend went out and I felt like I shouldn’t have to ask him to stay. It prompted me to write a poem. Dallas [Austin, the producer] took [it] ... and converted it to a song. I didn’t realise at the time that so many people felt the way I felt, but it came to help inspire people.”
The group’s defining song (and music video) hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1995 and earned them four Vmas—but it almost didn’t happen. “Clive [Davis, then head of TLC’S label, Arista Records] didn’t like this song and we had to beg LA [Reid, co-founder of Arista joint label Laface Records] to believe in it and to believe in the video and our vision so that we could get the budget,” says T-boz. “And to date that’s our biggest song. A lot of people with HIV/AIDS—IT was really becoming a big epidemic back then—we were their voice. We always wanted to stand for something and speak up about things that were important.”
“NO SCRUBS” 1999
“She’kspere, the producer, was playing us some tracks because he wanted to get on [Fanmail],” says Chilli. “Once I heard the first verse I was like, ‘ That’s the one right there!’ It was so cool because lyrically it definitely fell in line with things that we talk about when it comes to girl power and all that kind of stuff about the dudes. I had heard the term ‘scrub’ here and there before, but it wasn’t very popular. But it did become popular once the song came out.”