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Close up on TLC

Close up on TLC — EW talks with the rap/vocal trio

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If there’s one thing the Atlanta-based rap/vocal trio TLC wants you to know, it’s this: ”We are of age.” So insists petite singer Chilli (right), born Rozonda Thomas 21 years ago. Why is age an issue? Maybe because the baby-faced group’s first smash single, ”Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” features some seriously adult rapping about sexual desire by Lisa ”Left Eye” Lopes (middle), who won’t turn 21 until May. Or maybe because their outfits flaunt the latest in trendy accessories: sealed condoms. ”What we’re trying to say is not to go have sex,” maintains husky-voiced Tionne ”T-Boz” Watkins, 21 (left). ”But if you’re having sex, have safe sex. If people see us making condoms a fashion statement, maybe they’ll be less ashamed to buy one.”

Put together 15 months ago via audition by the singer Pebbles, who doubles as the team’s manager, TLC has hit a home run with its feisty debut album, Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip, exploring what women really want in love and sex to a funky but solid R&B beat. But don’t try to label them: ”We’re not feminist,” insists Left Eye. ”I’ll stand up for the guys in a second.”

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