TLC’s remaining members will press on and complete the group’s fourth album despite the loss of their friend and group mate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, according to Arista Records.
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas are keeping mum about the album’s title, but as with the trio’s previous releases it was Left Eye who conceived the name. Arista hopes to release the album later this year.
The girls started working on the disc late last year but had to break when T-Boz’s sickle cell anemia required her to be hospitalized for two months. The trio were getting ready to resume recording, according to longtime producer Dallas Austin, when Left Eye was killed in an April 25 car accident (see “Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes Killed In Car Accident” ).
“I’ve done about six or seven songs,” Austin said the day after Left Eye’s passing. “[We also have] pieces of four or five more things that haven’t been finished. Everybody was getting ready to start back working in the next week or two.”
He said TLC have had more input in the new disc than on albums past. “The girls were pretty much more involved in pulling in producers and writers,” he explained. “Where [on the last three albums] it was usually molded by me saying, ‘This is the sound,’ this one was being pieced together a little different, which was cool. We were doing this album, then the greatest hits. Sitting down, you’d be like, ‘I didn’t know we had this many hits just after three albums.’ ”
Lopes’ personal publicist and friend Jay Marose said he’s heard a handful of the songs and that TLC’s fans will be pleased when the album comes out.
The new songs are “not unlike the hits from [1999's] Fan Mail,” he said Friday. “It’s connected even more. Fan Mail, that’s who they were at that time. There was so much in there that was really personal. This was the next step in that. The Lisa, Chilli and T-Boz that we got to know in Fan Mail, this record was a deeper, better version of that. The first track I heard blew me away. It had a bit of controversy.”
Aside from the work they did with Austin, TLC recorded songs with Raphael Saadiq and were scheduled to hit the studio with Babyface as well as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
For complete coverage on the Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes tragedy, see Remembering Left Eye: The Lisa Lopes Reports.
— Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway