TLC on never replacing Left Eye and staying crazy, sexy, cool

In the ’90s, TLC was more like TNT with the way the trio exploded with hits such as “Creep,” “Waterfalls” and, of course, “No Scrubs.”

But the R&B girl group suffered a big blow when its resident rapper, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, died in a 2002 car crash in Honduras. Still, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas have carried on as a duo and will bring their “Celebration of ‘CrazySexyCool’ ” tour — in honor of their 1994 smash album — to the Coney Island Amphitheater on Saturday.

Here, T-Boz, 51, and Chilli, 50, share why they never replaced Left Eye, how they give themselves TLC — and whether they’re more crazy, sexy or cool after all these years.

TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins will play Coney Island Amphitheater on Saturday.
Photo credit Dennis Leupold.

November marks the 30th anniversary of your debut single, “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg.” What are your special memories of recording that song?

Chilli: Dallas [Austin, the producer]

was putting all the beats together, and as it was coming together, it was sounding better and better. And Lisa and I started putting together a routine in the studio before we even started singing on it. The song moved us like that — we just started dancing.

How is it performing without Left Eye after all these years?

T-Boz: Over the years, things have changed with a range of different emotions. Of course it’s something you never get over, but you learn how to live and move forward with the situation. You have to find your new normal. But when we perform, we always keep her energy alive. It’s about a celebration of life now — what we accomplished together, what we built together, the body of work — and we feel her presence.

TLC in 1992
TLC in 1992, the same year that the trio released its debut album, “Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip”
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What’s your favorite memory of her?

Chilli: I just loved being in the kitchen with her and watching her cook because you could tell she just loved it. Just to see that type of joy on her face, I used to love that, and I miss that so much … Lisa’s recipe for gumbo is the best gumbo I’ve ever had in my life. When she came back from Honduras, she was gonna come to my house and show me how to make it. And sadly that didn’t happen, but that was the plan.

Did you ever consider replacing Left Eye?

Chilli: Never. It was just meant to be us.

TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas performing in Nashville in 2019.
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You’re both in your 50s now. How do you keep that youthful glow?

Chilli: We don’t drink or smoke. Folks that really are into drinking a lot and partying and doing all that kind of stuff, it definitely takes a wear and tear on your body. But we’re all gonna age, and honestly it’s a blessing to be alive.

At this stage in your life, would you describe yourself as more crazy, sexy or cool?

T-Boz: I’d say I’m still crazy, sexy and cool. There’s a cool side to me, there’s a crazy side to me, and there’s a sexy side to me. I’m still all that much of a woman. I’m just more seasoned.

TLC's T-Boz and Chilli performing
TLC’s T-Boz and Chilli brought their “Celebration of ‘CrazySexyCool’” tour to Sterling Heights, Michigan on Tuesday.
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Chilli: Maybe some days I could be more cool, or some days I could be feeling more sexy or crazy. So all three are definitely there. It just depends on the day when one is more prevalent than the other.

What is the best way to give yourselves TLC?

T-Boz: Staying prayed-up. We pray all the time. All this stuff can’t be possible without big G-O-D, you know what I’m saying? It all starts with God.