Three girls with three different personalities, giving three dimensions to the group, all coming at you on wax. That's the way Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes perceived herself and friends Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, and that's how she conceived the title of TLC's fourth album, 3D.
On Friday (September 13), Arista Records previewed tracks from the LP, which is due on November 12. Completing the album, which was unfinished when Left Eye was killed in April (see "Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes Killed In Car Accident"), was an emotional task for T-Boz and Chilli.
"We promised to deliver the album, but it was a little bit of lip service, because we didn't know what we were going to do," said Arista head honcho L.A. Reid, who said that Left Eye will appear on five out of the 12 to 14 cuts that will make 3D.
One song dedicated to Left Eye, "Turntable," serves as an inspirational life lesson on wax. Produced by Rodney Jerkins, the song tells people to persevere with the cards that life deals them. "Don't ask yourself why," Chilli advises while backed by guitars and martial drums. "Just point to the sky."
On the other hand, the title track, produced by Dallas Austin, is all about bringing the noise. The bombastic, booty-shaking drum and bass on the song are reminiscent of Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad."
Austin also produced the uptempo "Quickie," which will be the first single. The track playfully broaches being disappointed by a man who can't hit a home run in the bedroom because of lack of stroke in his bat.
Left Eye starts the song off by telling everyone that she and girls are about to give a lesson on "Left pimping." "I'm T-Boz and I got it like that," her groupmate says as the song starts to flow. "Left Eye's dope/ She got it like that/ Chilli's fly/ She got it like that."
From there, T-Boz sings about getting turned on by a guy who speaks proudly of his prowess over the phone, only to later be frustrated by his lack of stamina. "No, n-n-n-no he didn't," a scandalized Left Eye says before she takes guys to task for needing some "ginseng for the ping-ping" and raps about being "that imperial bitch."
The female locker room verbiage is amped up further on "Girl Talk," produced by Edmund "Eddie Hustle" Clement. The trio warn that it's a new day and when guys make that connection with a girl, they better work it or their lovers will spread the word on who's half-stepping. Left Eye exhorts that guys have to earn their pass, while her singing cohorts disclose, "Girls talk about the booty too."
"I just want to have good times in your arms tonight/ If you feel my body/ It will free your mind," they sing on the sexed-down midtempo track "In My Arms Tonight." The Neptunes pull out the piano, drums, strings and synthesizers and mix in the old-school sensual feel of Michael Jackson and Prince on the song, which also features Chilli painting the scenario of a dream evening: "Let's ride tonight and forget what we've ever known/ No promises and nothing is set in stone." (Oddly enough, the Organized Noize camp uses a bevy of futuristic, Neptunes-sounding blings on "Give It to Me While It's HOT.")
"Hands Up," which T-Boz co-wrote about a real-life situation, goes back to chastising guys. The Babyface & Darryl Simmons-produced ditty centers on time: Boz's man, who is having too good of a time, is in the wrong place at the wrong time. After telling T-Boz that he would be attending his Tuesday card game, he decides to hit the club. Unbeknownst to him, Boz and her girls have hit the same hotspot on the same night.
"You had your hands up in the air/ Hoochies everywhere, all on you," she laments. "It's like I almost don't know you/ Tryin' to shake your ass, playa/ You don't even dance/ What's up with you?"
A dirty dog is also the center of disdain on "So So Dumb," where the girls convey disgust for a dude who tries to cheat on his girlfriend with one of her friends.
Missy Elliott and Timbaland both were at the helm of the control boards for "Dirty." The cut, which features the duo's bass-layered jungle rhythms, also serves as a way of honoring the spunky Lopes.
"TLC is forever," T-Boz and Chilli insist. "When you come up in here, get your back up off the wall. Left Eye would want us to break it down like this." Missy comes in toward the end of the party, telling everyone, "Left Eye gets a moment of silence."