Tameka 'Tiny' Harris on Michael Jackson's Xscape Connection

The singer turned reality TV star remembers writing "No Scrubs" for TLC

Tameka 'Tiny' Harris
Prince Williams/FilmMagic
Tameka 'Tiny' Harris
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These days, Tiny Harris is recognizable for her reality shows — first Tiny & Toya, then T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle — and her husband, the Atlanta rapper who co-stars in the latter. During the Nineties, however, Harris first made her mark with Xscape, known for "Just Kickin' It" and "My Little Secret," and later for "No Scrubs," a track she co-wrote after the group disbanded. Shortly after the world learned a new album of unfinished Michael Jackson tracks would also bear the name "Xscape," Harris chatted with Rolling Stone about the story behind her most famous composition and the time MJ visited her dressing room.

New Michael Jackson album Xscape to Come Out in May

What have you been working on lately besides Family Hustle?
Oh, well I've been working on the OMG Girlz. We're just getting the singles and getting them ready to release a single. I'm also still working on a couple new shows — The Real Hairstylists of Atlanta. I have another show that's in the works about celebrity moms that I'm working on too. I'm partnering up with some other producers. And I also have a spin-off that me and [co-star] Shekinah is doing, which we'll start doing next month.

What did you learn from being in Xscape that's affected the way you're handling OMG Girlz?
I'm feeding them the knowledge that I learned from my group, letting them know how to deal with one another, how to face their problems together as a unit, what not to do, what to look for, to get more involved in their business and to learn the business and not just be artists. Because a lot of time with Xscape, I learned that being just an artist hindered me, because I had to learn the business after the fact. And that just wasn't, it wasn't the smartest thing to do. It wasn't great for the things that were going on with my career.

You mentioned things they shouldn't do. What are some of those things?
They shouldn't go on feeling a certain way and holding it in and letting it get bigger and bigger and grow inside internally, because then it explodes later on when it's too big. And the guys, the men — don't let a man interfere with your group and change what you're knowing to be right and take you to left field when you're going down the right road. In this business, for women and women artists, guys can be very misleading. That's just with anything, you know? If you have a relationship, you can be misled to thinking it's one thing and it's not. They're very smart girls. They're not persuaded by a lot of other people's opinions and thoughts. So hopefully it'll stay that way, and I just try to continue beating that in their heads.

With Tiny and Toya, were you involved in the television side on the business end?
Yeah, when I got in the Toya and Tiny thing, I guess I came in more on the business end. I wanted to be in control of what's being seen and wanted to view everything ahead and be able to OK it at the end of the day before it's viewed.

Going back to music, I've always wondered about your involvement in writing "No Scrubs." Can you talk about that?
Well me and Kandi [Burruss, now a star of Real Housewives of Atlanta], we were coming together to do a project for ourselves. We were sitting down, coming up with ideas, and when we wrote, we would always come up with a concept first. And she had a concept 'cause she had been, like, "I wanna talk about a screw-up, a guy that's a screw-up that doesn't have their own business in order. It came from a previous relationship that she was in. And we took that and wrote about what we call a scrub.

We brought it to life on our own song for ourselves, and then the producer She'kspere had played it for some of the powers that be at LaFace, and they immediately were like, we want this song for TLC. And he came back to us, and we were kind of thinking about it. We were kind of like, 'This is a hit for us. Like, we really feel like we can make it off this song.' Because at this time, Xscape just broke up, and we were really trying to find our way. So it was probably the best thing we probably could have ever ever did by giving TLC that "No Scrubs" record.

Why?
Because for one, it gave me a Grammy. And two, it put us in a different light than just being artists. It gave us another outlet, like, "OK, these are songwriters. Grammy-winning songwriters." So it was a different category, a different level for my life. I had been a successful artist but never a successful writer.

Where did that slang come from?
Scrubs? I think it's an Atlanta thing. We just kind of made it bigger than it was a phrase going around.

Going up to the present day, I assume you've heard that Michael Jackson's new album is called Xscape and it's spelled like the name of your group.
Yes! Well, the thing is, I love the idea. I love that Michael Jackson is the biggest pop artist we know. And I don't know if Xscape had anything to do with the idea of naming it Xscape. But all in all, it is an honor because that is the name of my group, and it's spelled that way. It's an honor.

Did you guys ever have any brushes with him?
Well, we met Michael once at something going on for Essence, the magazine. We all were there. And we performed "Understanding," and we saw Mike — he was out there in the second row somewhere. And we saw him and he was really, really enjoying our song. And we were so excited and elated that he was out there really vibing to us. And then afterwards, they say he wanted to meet us, saying that he thought we were great, we did a great job and he loved the song. H thought we had a career ahead of us.

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