On the eve of their first concert, the singer talked to us about the new album and being an early hip-hop feminist.
Hours before performing on the first stop of their TLC tour, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas spoke to ESSENCE. It's been twenty-five years since their debut album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and they're back with new music.
As one of the highest-selling girl groups, who burst into hip-hop in the early '90s with bold songs of empowerment and sexual onus, TLC changed the world with their incomparable swag.
Indicative of the times, the new album came about through a Kickstarter campaign started in 2015, fully funded by fans. The remaining TLC members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Chilli, used the money for writing, producing and engineering the album that came out last June.
As a way to take creative control of the process and be certain that there was a demand, they pledged everything from VIP tickets to autographed lyrics— and their $150k goal was hit.
"We own our own music," Chilli said. "And once it's done, then you're able to shop it the way that you want to because you own it, nobody else does. That's the plus with doing it independently."
Having struggled with financial literacy in their early careers —as depicted by their VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story— the women are much smarter about how their money is distributed. Coincidentally, one of their most lucrative songs "No Scrubs" teaches a message of empowerment, that Chilli believes girls should still listen to today.
"I remember when we first started, hearing that they [fans] were calling us feminists," she said. "[But] we just tell it how it is."
"I absolutely love 'No Scrubs', because the message it has is educational for all girls. And for every generation," she said about the empowering track written by Kandi Burruss and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle about no-good men.
"I hope it keeps on living forever and ever, and girls really listen to that, and guys take heed. Maybe some of those scrubs will reform themselves. You know what I mean? There's hope. We've got to keep hope alive."
TLC is currently on the "I Love The 90s" tour— tickets are available here.