Cape Town - Fans of ’90s R&B rejoice – TLC, Dru Hill and SWV are heading to SA for the inaugural Soul Fest.
Having sold more than 65 million records, TLC is the bestselling American girl group of all time and worldwide the trio’s sales are second only to the Spice Girls.
Original TLC member Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes (30) died in 2002 in a car accident but the remaining two, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins (48) and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas (47), are still going strong.
We chatted to one half of the iconic R&B duo, Chilli, who dished on everything from parenting advice to bizarre fan tattoos.
A real-life safari
When we ask if she’s looking forward to coming our way, Chilli starts off by telling us – in her Atlanta, Georgia-drawl – “I’m so excited, I don’t know what to do with myself!”, adding that she’s most looking forward to going on a real African safari.
“I watch a lot of NatGeo Wild and it's one thing to see the animals on TV but to actually be around them? That's totally different!”
Other than spotting the Big Five, she’s also looking forward to exploring the country and seeing how beautiful it is. “I’ve always wanted to go and I'm just so glad the opportunity came up.”
On her favourite songs to perform
The 47-year-old started out in the industry as a backupdancer for singer Kenny "Babyface" Edmond’s LaFace Records, so it’s no surprise her favourite songs to perform are TLC’s more up-tempo numbers.
“I don't have a particular song that's my favourite to perform, I just love the ones where I get to dance. Performing the up-tempo numbers is probably far more exciting than some of the slower stuff,” she said.
Not going anywhere
Back in 2015, the five-time Grammy winners from Atlanta decided to release a final, self-titled record – theirfirst since 3D (2002).
But T-Boz and Chilli wanted to do it without the involvement of a record label and took to Kickstarter to fund their farewell endeavour. They asked fans to help finance the project by each donating at least $5 (R72) to reach their goal of $150 000 (R2,8 million).
In less than 48 hours they’d surpassed this to become the “fastest, most funded pop project in Kickstarter history”. They eventually raised a whopping $430 255 (R6,2 million)!
Among the loyal fans who donated were singers Katy Perry, Bette Midler and Justin Timberlake. “It was so surreal for us, we couldn't believe it,” Chilli recalls. “You always hear people saying they support you and ‘why don't you guys do another album’ – but when that happened we were actually like, we believe it!” Although the pair is adamant that TLC (2015) was their final full-length album they’ll continue to perform, record and make appearances together. “We ain’t going anywhere,” Chilli insists. “As long as we have the love for it and want to keep doing it – we're going to keep on doing it.”
Call her, Dr Chilli
“I always wanted to be on a stage, singing and dancing, but the other thing I always wanted to be was a doctor,” she reveals. “Anything in medicine, actually. Maybe a pharmacist or some kind of holistic healer.
“I'm all about health, so somewhere in the healthcare industry. Those are the only kind of books I'm excited to read and sometimes I'll find myself reading something health-related on the internet and before long, a whole hour has gone by.”
What’s on her playlist?
What’s on heavy rotation on the five-time Grammy winner’s playlist? Bruno Mars, actually. “He’s my favourite right now because his music is just so real. It's like ’80s music but today. You can tell he was heavily influenced by that era. He's a great performer.”
Craziest fan experience
After nearly three decades in the industry, she’s probably seen it all – but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still get freaked out.
“Probably the craziest thing I’ve seen, and continue to see, is when people show us their TLC tattoos,” she says laughing.
“I was at the airport the other day and this guy came up to me, he told me he was a fan and was so happy to meet me. He showed me his leg and on it was a TLC tattoo. It always shocks me – the thought of people putting our faces on their bodies!”
Advice for working moms
Chilli gave birth to her son Tron Austin in June 1997, while the group was still flying high off the success of 1994’s CrazySexyCool – one of 100 top selling albums of all time.
Two years after his birth the trio went on to release 1999’s FanMail, which spawned iconic hits such as No Scrubs and Unpretty. Her advice for moms trying to have it all? “Your kids are always number one priority – period. You can't lose yourself so much in work that you're not able to focus on raising your kids.
“You've got to keep tabs on what they're watching, the things they're doing and the people they're involved with,” she tells us.
“You've got to sacrifice all the things you were free to do before you had a kid. That's what's important.”
Soul fest dates:
Johannesburg – Ticketpro Dome Saturday, 1 September 2018
Durban – Jonsson Kings Park (Outer fields) Sunday, 2 September 2018
Cape Town – Grand Arena, Grand West Tuesday, 4 September 2018