Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins On The Return Of TLC And The Pressures Of Stardom

by (@emilyexton)

With the film and upcoming tour, are you hoping to introduce yourselves to those who are not familiar with your music?
We have an amazing fan base–I know some people by first name; I’ve seen them my whole 20 years. For me, I hope a ll the generations come. I have 15 and 13-year-olds on Twitter saying how they wish they were in the ’90s living in our era, saying how much they love “No Scrubs” or “Waterfalls.” They’re 13 and I’m like, “How do you know me?!” I find that amazing. I want it all, why not? I’ll take all of the generations.

So many of your classics are conscious songs about real issues–sex, body image, AIDs. What has been your songwriting process?
We talk about relationships–relationships can be between mother, brother, father, son, friend to friend, boyfriend-girlfriend. We talk about things people can relate to and put it into a story. It can have a meaning but it’s not preachy. It comes across [in a way] where you can still jam and dance to it, but you still got something from it.

Which of your songs do you think is the most powerful?
“Waterfalls” spoke to so many people at a time where people needed to feel like somebody was on their side. There was a patient who had contracted HIV and AIDS and they felt like we were standing up and talking for them because no one else would. That’s what we heard from a lot of people. When I wrote “Unpretty,” that’s a personal situation for so many people and it went to No. 1. At the end of the day we feel the same, we all hurt. When you talk about real things, it’s like being on the same level. Women need to be empowered and know that it’s more than walking out with your butt wagging. We know that’s easy, let’s doing something harder.

Having this approach to your music, did you ever have to fight to gain control over the content you were writing about? Was there any pressure from your label?
I don’t say anything I don’t believe or I don’t want to–that’s one thing you can know about me until this day. If it’s my day to stop, then I’ll stop. But before I can perform and be a puppet… that’s what’s wrong with some of these artists today: people give them their songs, their clothes, their attitudes. They didn’t give us anything; we’re authentic. What you see is what you get. That’s what I love about my group: we stand for something.

So if you didn’t feel pressured to fit a certain mold, how did you approach CrazySexyCool? There was a distinct image shift to something more mature than Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip.
It was four years later. I thought, “How can I could incorporate what I did the last time but make it better and grow from there because I am four to five years wiser now?” I was at a different level; I was going into womanhood. You do start transitioning. Basically, that’s what you saw: us growing up, and whoever was there was growing up with us.

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