Being a member of TLC means walking a fine line between love and ... dislike.
The trio's bickering has been well-documented enough so that many believed their most recent album, 1999's Fan Mail, would be their last. The word that Chilli and Left Eye were working on solo albums, while T-Boz was raising a family with her hoo-bangin' husband Mack 10, all but sealed the threesome's demise for many. As Chilli tells it, though, while it may be hard for the crazy, sexy and cool trio to live with each other sometimes, it's even tougher for them to live apart.
"It's going to shock people, but TLC's back in the studio," said Chilli, who admits the group has had its share of problems. "It's all about unity and sticking together and supporting. Because when you don't do that, you leave room for people to assume we're not together and don't like each other and all that. We're together, we're always going to be together and we're working on this TLC record."
Chilli is so committed to the new TLC project that she was willing to delay her untitled solo album so Arista can release the record by November 6.
"It's funny," Chilli recalled. "Right when I was about to go in the studio for my solo project, I got a phone call asking me to do another TLC record. And I was like, 'I was thinking that.' I want to do a solo project, but I really felt doing TLC again was more of a priority."
While Chilli's solo debut is at a standstill, Left Eye's still-untitled solo project is nearly completed and scheduled for August 14 release. TLC's biggest drama queen said she does more singing than rapping on it, but it won't alienate fans who like her for her group efforts.
"I didn't move too far away from TLC, but I definitely moved into some arenas that are the next step," laughed Left Eye, who collaborated with Carl Thomas and Rockwilder on the album. "It's hard to describe. I've been trying to figure it out. I haven't come up with the right term yet."
You could describe Chilli's album as blithe. She says the vibe of the songs she has completed is upbeat. "I'm going to have ballads, but I'm not going to have anything sad on there. I'm not going to talk about, 'He broke my heart and Lord I can't make it now.' None of that. It's going to be fun. I have hooks everybody can sing."
Somebody who's definitely going to sing along with the Grammy winner is her good friend Lenny Kravitz, she said. She found her way to Kravitz's heart through his stomach.
"I reeled him in with my sweet potato pie," she recalled. "He was like, 'Your sweet potato pie isn't going to be as good as my grandmother's.' I was like, 'I'm not going to brag. I'm just gonna make the sweet potato pie and hope you like it.' He took it on his tour bus and called me the next day and was like, 'Man, you slapped my grandmama. This sweet potato pie is the best.'"
But will fans still find TLC the best when the new album drops? Since Fan Mail was released, the field has expanded with the rise to stardom of Destiny's Child and the emergence of other girl groups such as Dream and 3LW.
"I don't really feel the pressure," Left Eye said. "I don't know how T-Boz and Chilli feel. Sometimes I think they feel a little pressure, because when I signed Blaque to Columbia, it was sort of looked upon as, 'Uh-oh, I'm creating some competition.' I always felt like, well, if TLC doesn't do good, it's because of our own recognizance. There's enough room for everybody. As long as we're great at what we do, we'll be accepted."