As TLC revs up a comeback album due out June 30, the family of their late groupmate, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, is taking issue with comments made by Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins in a recent interview.
Speaking of Lopes’ “absence” on the independent album, which was funded through Kickstarter (among the contributors: Katy Perry), Watkins and Thomas blame Lopes’ family for “trying to hold her vocals hostage.”
But in an exclusive statement to Variety, the Lopes family defends its position, claiming that TLC and its management, longtime rep Billy Diggins, had repeatedly failed to honor past TLC agreements. “We could not, in good conscience, continue to act in Lisa’s interest in TLC, LLC by releasing the recordings as TLC and its managers had not acted in good faith. The management’s failure to honor the TLC agreement was at issue.”
Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002. As a trio, TLC sold nearly 14 million albums in the United States just in the 1990s. The Lopes family maintains ownership of the late rapper’s records, including unreleased musical and spoken tracks.
According to a source, tensions between the surviving group members and the Lopes estate had been brewing for some time, with the family feeling increasingly marginalized by such projects as a TLC reality show (the 2005 UPN series “R U the Girl” launched a search for Lopes’ replacement) and a scholarship in Lopes’ honor. Meanwhile, the insider contends, “[the Lopes] family has graciously agreed to a lesser portion for future recordings to reflect Lisa’s inability to perform or promote.”
Using recorded vocals posthumously is not an uncommon practice in the music industry. Take rapper Tupac Shakur, for example, whose estate has supervised the release of multiple albums following his death in 1996. In 2014, previously unheard Michael Jackson vocals were used for the album “Xscape” and reworked by producers like Timbaland and Stargate. That same year, vocals by the late O.D.B. (Ol’ Dirty Bastard) showed up on a new Wu Tang Clan recording.
For TLC’s part, Thomas maintains that “this is the new TLC: T-Boz and Chilli and [Lopes’] memory and spirit.”
Variety has reached out to TLC’s reps for comment or clarification.
Read the Lopes family’s statement in full below:
We feel it is unfortunate that only a fraction of the story was told regarding the Lopes Estate’s decision to withhold Lisa’s recordings from the new TLC album as typified in the following quote:
“The family, they held onto the other stuff,” says Watkins, as Thomas rolls her eyes. “I guess maybe they wanted money or something. I don’t think she’d be happy that people are trying to hold her vocals hostage.”
The writer and editors at Billboard did not reach out for our comment. If they had, we would have explained that at the time in which Lisa’s recordings were requested, TLC had continuously failed to honor their contractual agreements with the Lopes Estate for over a year.
Lisa was a fighter. When it came to her business, she was fearless to stand up for what was right. At the time of the request, we could not, in good conscience, continue to act in Lisa’s interest in TLC, LLC by releasing the recordings as TLC and its managers had not acted in good faith. The management’s failure to honor the TLC agreement was at issue.
We always wish TLC the best !
If we fight, we fight for Lisa – our inspiration, guardian, sister, daughter.
And Lisa always gave her all to her fans.
– The Lopes Family