It’s been nearly 30 years since Chilli, T-Boz, and Left Eye joined forces. Their crossover success in the music industry earned them five Grammy Awards, four multi-platinum albums, and four number one singles. More than that, it gave them a platform to discuss social issues plaguing the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Their lyrics have empowered fans to be strong and independent and to take charge of their own health. The group also actively strives to educate and support HIV/AIDS prevention. Opening up that conversation to young people at the time and breaking the stigmas attached to the discussion became a lasting part of their legacy. It’s no wonder they were warmly welcomed to a sold-out crowd as the headliner at Twin Cities Pride this year.
T-Boz and Chilli took the stage on Saturday night as a duo; Left Eye passed away in 2002. The band agreed they couldn’t replace her iconic raps with another performer. They began with a pair of songs – “What About Your Friends” and “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” from their 1992 debut album Ooooooohhh…On The TLC Tip.
TLC at Pride felt like a family. People had been waiting together all day to see this set. I looked around and it was clear that new friendships were constantly forming around the pit. It elevated the vibe of the evening exponentially as fans shared the moment together.
Their stage presence was electrifying. Chilli danced around the stage and teased the crowd as she reached out and grabbed the hands of fans. T-Boz belted out each song with her familiar raspy vocals. There was a band playing behind a group of dancers who rounded out the aesthetic.
A personal highlight was hearing “Unpretty.” I have vivid memories of being a small kid and seeing this music video on MTV, which features girls waiting to get plastic surgery who look scared and unsure of what they’re about to do. The message in the song stuck with me: you don’t have to change yourself for everyone else. There’s no true perfection in society. All you have to do is be happy with who you are. Be who you want to be and the rest will come to you.
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make up that M.A.C. can make
But if you can’t look inside you
Find out who am I too
Be in the position to make me feel so
The group weaved old favorites like “Creep” and “No Scrubs” between newer songs from their latest Kickstarter funded album. On the side of the stage was a sign language interpreter. Although she had been there signing all day, it felt like an homage to Left Eye, who worked sign language into visuals. It created a strong sense of inclusivity.
Left Eye was still very much a part of the TLC performance, despite her absence. Her rapping could be heard over the speakers as the other two stepped back to honor her piece. The crowd rapped along so passionately that it was sometimes hard to hear. It’s clear that she lives on in the hearts of the group and its fans.
The set ended with “Waterfalls.” Fans sang along and cheered for Chilli and T-Boz as they performed their most iconic song. They graciously reached out to the fans and created lasting memories for each one. The band and dancers bowed and exited the stage.
It felt like the night had ended on the perfect note. The crowd looked euphoric from the performance and ready to move on to more festivities. Suddenly fireworks shot up above the skyline of Minneapolis. Old and new friends watched them together. It felt magical.
What About Your Friends
Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg
Diggin’ on You
Red Light Special