throwback 15 years ago to when we met tlc's chilli

As TLC announce their first London show (tickets on sale today!) we throwback to 2002, when we had a chat with Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas shortly after the tragic death of her bandmate and dear friend Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopes.

by i-D Staff
24 March 2017, 10:43pm

Following the tragic death of Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes in April this year, the remaining members of TLC have continued her work, completing the band's fourth and possibly final album. Here, Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas talks about life after Lisa.

It must be very difficult for you to promote your new album, 3-D, without Lisa around. What's your fondest memory of her?
So many memories… We always used to play pranks on people and so everybody was always like "Oh no! TLC, the crazy girls!" We'd go to hotels and knock on people's doors. You had to pull your pants down and expose your butt and then just run and hope that nobody caught you. Me and Lisa would do that all the time. The one time Tionne did it, she got caught by one of the security guards. We never let her live that down! Also just the fact that when Tionne and I performed with Lisa, nobody ever wanted to get too close because she was clumsy. See, people don't know that about her. It's like she had two left feet and suddenly you'd get hit in the head with a mic… She didn't mean it, she was just clumsy, y'know.

Has her death brought you and Tionne closer?
Her death has truly brought us closer for the simple fact that we totally know what it feels like. She was our sister. I remember when all that happened, I didn't want to be around anyone but Tionne because as much as your friends can say "oh my God," and all that, they don't understand it how Tionne and I understand it. It really makes you appreciate life so much more and each other, y'know. I think it's a human error that we just take everything for granted.

How does it feel to be working without her input?
You know it's funny because I feel like her input is still here because she left us with so much to work with. Just the simple fact that she named the CD for a start. TLC 3-D, three dimensional. Because she was so much a part of us and we know each other so well, we know what she would say or do in a certain situation.

Was it hard to complete the album?
Initially, it was just so hard to accept the fact that we would never see her again, because when we started the project we were all in the studio together. It reminded me of the early days. But then it got to a place where she had to go and do other stuff for her solo project. Me and Tionne kept working and we'd send tracks, like the last track we sent her was the single Girl Talk and she led her vocals on that. But really, to pick up and finish this all for her, I had to like psyche myself out and act like 'she's on the way', or 'she just left'... So it was hard to finish the album. But I almost became obsessed with finishing it because she would want us to do that, so it was like "We've got to get it right!" Everything had to be perfect because we want her to be happy and proud of us.

Has life been quieter without her around?
Yeah I think the media might miss Lisa! You just never knew what Lisa's gonna do. She's gonna disappear or say something, wear something real crazy everyone to talk about next. We were always waiting for Tionne to call and say, "Did y'all see our girl on TV? What's she doing now?" That kind of stuff. Probably a bit quieter now…

The new album's very much TLC 'back in the day', isn't it?
Oh, absolutely. 2003 - ain't too proud to beg!

Will it be your last album as TLC?
[Pause] I don't know… I just don't know.

What are your future plans?
[Laughs] Well, right now I'm just concentrating on TLC and after that I will start to work on my solo project and maybe have some more kids one day. I don't know. Just concentrating on this for now.

What's helped you get through the last six months?
Keeping busy. Finishing the record has been just enough to keep my mind off things. That's why, when we did the MTV awards, it kind of hit me all over again because it was like a reality check and it's just me and Tionne here, by ourselves. But I've already tried to accept that it's gonna be like that, there's gonna be times like that.

Have you been able to take any positives from the negatives?
Yes, absolutely. That's why one of my favourite songs on the album is called Turntable and it's basically about when things happen in life, bad things, there's always something good. You know - watch the tables turn, because something good always comes after the bad. So you know I just pull strength from that and be thankful that I'm alive and I'm healthy and I have my son. That alone is enough for me to look forward to the next day.

How would you describe the sound on the new album?
Ooh… For me it kind of sums up everything that we've done before. It has a feel of the first album, with the energ, and with Lisa. It talks about relationships and serious issues, life-changing event. I mean we're talking like… I'm lost for words.

What's the most important thing you've learned through all this?
That life goes on. As much as you feel like it can stop, it doesn't. You know, you may stop, but everything keeps moving. You just have to get that strength so you can just get up the next day and do what you have to do because… it goes on.

Are you still too proud to beg?
[Laughs] I ain't never too proud to beg!

Read: All your 90s R&B dream have come true! TLC announce first ever UK show.


Interview by Mark Hooper

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
music interviews
rozonda ‘chilli’ thomas