It’s not all fluff though.
Thomas’ decision to terminate a pregnancy with the group’s frequent producer, Dallas Austin, is depicted (she eventually had a son with him). So is Watkins’ hospitalization, and both still find it trying to watch the scenes that show Lopes’ funeral or the sequences Lil Mama shot that mirror Lopes’ time at a Honduran healing village -- which served as the basis for VH1’s 2007 documentary, “The Last Days of Left Eye.”
Like their music, Watkins and Thomas are brazen in conversation. Not much is off limits, a rarity for pop’s often controlled, media-savvy stars.
Not everyone is pleased though. As Watkins and Thomas made promo rounds for the film, their former manager, Perri Reid, implied via Twitter that she would pursue legal action “now that the slander continues.”
And L.A. Reid -- who reunited with the group and inked them to a new deal through LaFace/Epic Records after visiting the film’s Atlanta set earlier this year -- declined to comment for this article.
A source close to the group said L.A. Reid had a problem with his possible portrayal in the film and that the issue is “compounded” by Perri Reid’s depiction. TLC’s public fallout with Perri Reid was infamous and they were frank when discussing dealings with their former manager, including purchasing back the ‘TLC’ name for $1 million per letter. [Editor's note: In a 1999 Los Angeles Times article, the Reids cited the nasty legal battle as a factor in their 1996 divorce].
Given their tumultuous history, the women’s renewed relationship with the label is surprising, to say the least.
“You’re always going to disagree about something. It’s a damn record label and he was running it. Of course you’re going to have ups and downs. And just like anybody else, we cuss him out when need be,” Watkins offered. “But it feels natural, like home. It’s a new day and time. We’re putting LaFace back on the map -- again.”
The new album is as much about securing TLC's legacy as it is about stepping into what Watkins calls their "transitional period."
Their longtime manager, Bill Diggins, was on the verge of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project before L.A. Reid stepped in to do the new deal.
“Everybody knows the stakes are high,” Diggins said. “We all have a lot to lose on this. If we can’t do excellent, let’s not do it. We’re not gonna settle for mediocrity. You give me one hit with TLC and it’s all over.”
Interest is certainly there, and the hip-hop world in particular has already embraced the group's return.
J. Cole recruited TLC for his single “Crooked Smile,” which netted TLC its first Top 10 R&B single since 1999, and Drake recently invited them to perform a surprise set at his annual OVO Festival.
“I knew how big [‘Crooked Smile’] could be,” Cole said. “When I finally got the hook, I heard TLC singing it because of [their] songs like 'Unpretty' and 'Waterfalls.' I wanted to hear their voices because I was such a big fan. And because those songs were so huge and impactful, but had a message behind them, it made sense.”
TLC recently issued “Meant to Be,” their first single since 2003. The saccharine, Ne-Yo-crafted ballad is the lone new track from the biopic’s soundtrack, “20,” and came from recent sessions that include collaborations with Dallas Austin and Lady Gaga, who penned a track called “P.O.S.H. Life.” They also hope to log studio time with Drake and 2 Chainz.
The album will pay homage to their fallen member; the same goes for live performances. Fans shouldn’t look for unreleased vocals from Lopes on the new record, however. Watkins, Thomas and producers turned to Lopes’ limited-released solo effort, “Supernova,” to pull vocals to complete “3D.”
“First off, there isn’t anything else, as far as her raps,” Thomas said.
“And then you have to think about it, there are conceptual songs with certain subject matters,” Watkins added. “Rappers are deep. Do you think everything [she recorded solo] matched up with what we were doing?”