TLC members Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins say there is a good reason why late group member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes does not appear on the 20th anniversary remake of their signature song, “Waterfalls.”
They were denied the right to use Lopes’s vocals.
“We don’t own the master recording rights to Lisa’s raps on any of our music, and our requests to gain the rights so far have been denied,” Chilli said in a statement released exclusively to Yahoo! Music. “With the Japanese anniversary edition, we were forced to use creative ways to honor Lisa’s memory and celebrate this milestone with our fans.”
The new version features Japanese pop star Namie Amuro rapping and singing a variation of Lopes’s lyrics on the song.
The omission upset Lopes’s sister Reigndrop. "I did not know about it until a fan posted it online," Reigndrop told TMZ. "I mean it would have been nice if they would have given us a heads up before being surprised."
Reigndrop added that her mother was upset by T-Boz and Chilli’s decision because she felt that the song would have honored her daughter’s memory had it included her vocals.
Lopes’s family was notified, according to T-Boz. “Our management spoke to Ron Lopes (Lisa’s brother) prior to the record being released to let him know that Namie would be performing to ‘Lisa’s’ lyrics,” she said in the statement. “We have and always will protect our sister’s legacy as TLC consists of the three of us collectively. Although we have and will collaborate with other artists, there will never be a replacement for Lisa or any members in TLC.”
Chilli believes that Left Eye would have approved the collaboration with Namie. “Lisa met Namie with us back in 1999 and she knew how much of a TLC fan Namie is; we were also impressed with how talented she is as a solo artist. Lisa being one of the most creative people I have ever met, would’ve been the first to have other talented artists covering our music. It is a tribute to her memory, and one I know she would appreciate.”
On June 22, TLC received the MTV Video Music Awards Japan Legend Award. “It is an extreme honor for us to accept this award,” T-Boz said. “The last person to receive the ‘Legend Award’ was Michael Jackson back in 2006. We are humbled and so thankful to our Japanese fans who have continued to support TLC over the years.”
Reigndrop and Lopes’s mother attended the VMAJ ceremony with T-Boz and Chilli. When accepting the award, Chilli acknowledged the family. “First of all, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes is our sister. She lives on forever in this group TLC. I want to give a shout out to her family that came here to also support us, right over there, her mom, her sister. … I know she’s smiling. She’s missed but she’s never forgotten.”
TLC will perform in the U.S. at the Mixtape Festival 2013 presented by VH1 on July 27 in Hershey, Penn. Their VH1 biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, is slated to air in October. They are also planning to tour and to release a new album.
"Waterfalls" spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released in 1995. Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in 2002 from neck and head injuries she suffered in a car accident in Honduras. She was 30-years-old.
TLC is one of the most successful musical trios of all time. From 1992 to 2003, the group scored 10 top-10 singles, four No. 1 tracks, four multiplatinum albums and four Grammy Awards. To date, TLC has sold more than 23 million albums in the U.S. and 65 million records worldwide.
By the end of 1999, the three members were engaging in ego battles and talent disputes. After TLC's 1999 album Fanmail came out, Lopes, who felt she was not properly represented on the album, decided to record a solo album, Supernova, which came out internationally but was not released in North America. In January, T-Boz told Yahoo! Music that she and Left Eye made amends before her passing.
Additional reporting by Jon Wiederhorn.