Legendary Groups: TLC

Introduction by @TrueGodImmortal
-There have been many groups over the years that impacted our music and culture. While a majority of them have been male driven groups, there have been some groundbreaking female groups in our history that stood the test of time. One group that is legendary and still somehow doesn't get mentioned enough is TLC. The trio based out of Atlanta managed to bring a bit of bravado with their different brand of music and style, and it would pay off for them in the long run. They've sold over 65 million records worldwide, making them the best selling girl group of all time here in the United States. That's a feat to truly be proud of. Now, business issues notwithstanding, TLC remains one of the driving forces of the 90's and today we look back on T-Boz, Chilli, and the late great Left Eye. Let's get into it.

I absolutely love highlighting people or groups who have made a significant impact in the music industry. Those who have left an unforgettable legacy and have brought nothing but hits and enjoyable music and TLC was exactly that.

Since the early 90's when the group formed, they managed to put out some true classics and I attribute that to the perfectly complimentary talents of each member. With only 3 members, TLC was the only group at the time that had a female lead vocal, a rapper and a harmonizer that made every song perfect. Although TLC released their first album in '92, I didn't become a fan of them until '94 when the "CrazySexyCool" album dropped. They instantly got my attention when I heard "Creep", the first of 4 singles released from that album, but I became a fan when I heard "Red Light Special". It didn't stop there either as "Waterfalls" and even "Diggin On You" would become instant favorites. Needless to say, TLC killed it with the whole album. The commercial success of CrazySexyCool was phenomenal, as the album would become certified Diamond and TLC would make history as the only girl group to achieve that status.

It didn't end there, in '99 they would release "Fanmail" and that was another successful album for them and was kind of a special treat for the fans. This was appropriately titled as it was a dedication to their fans for all the love and support during their 5 year hiatus. This album was a bit different in that they had implemented a different production wise, but it worked. This album had 5 singles, spent 5 consecutive weeks in the number 1 spot on Billboard's top 200 albums AND was nominated for 8 Grammys that year and won 3. 6X platinum makes "FanMail" a well deserved phenomenal success.

2002 would prove to be the most challenging year for the group and the fans would face a detrimental devastation. Left Eye wasn't as involved on the group's fourth album "3D" although that didn't stump the record sales and receptivity. Although there was a reason to believe Left Eye had intentions of doing more solo projects, 7 months before the release of "3D", a fatal car accident would take the life of Left Eye. The group, the fans and the R&B world would be left without the talents she brought. TLC never really bounced back from that loss, as they did tributes and some reality TV series, but never really came back to the music.

Once again, I thank the '90's for truly giving us the very best in music. TLC was a powerhouse from the moment they formed and their style and music is still unmatched. They gave us so much to appreciate and enjoy. They will forever be a fundamental component of R&B.

I think I've had enough fangasms over Left Eye to last several lifetimes. Go listen to her, she's great and is one of the most underrated femcees. But, I haven't had the chance to speak much on TLC. So, here goes. The group is legendary for a reason: mixing the girl power movement of the 80s and 90s, R&B tuneage, and rap in a way that's set up a lot of groups of this nature. T-Boz's voice has been, rightfully so, described as one of a kind and Chilli wasn't no slouch, either. All in all, it was a group that exceeded lofty expectations on the regular.

Considering the term "scrub" is still used, to a degree--oh, and TLC still gets regular burn still, even if on the older skewing hip-hop/r&b stations now--lets you know that the group was and is legendary (and ahead of their time).

TLC came on the scene as a group of girls from Atlanta, Ga. They kicked down doors with their unique style and infectious sound. These little women were determined to do things their way and that's exactly what they did. T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili took a different approach to the music industry. They didn't sell sex in their appearance like other female acts; that's just one aspect that set them apart from everyone else.

In 1992, they released their debut album, "Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip", on LaFace Records. Blending R&B with the hype sound of that time, they immediately garnered an audience. The girls wore baggy clothes and wrapped condoms on their outfits. T-Boz's deep raspy voice coupled with Chilli's sweet tone and Left Eye's energetic persona made them incomparable.

Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip went 4x platinum and deservedly so. From songs like "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" and "What About Your Friends", TLC had the right formula to make some noise in the game. Babyface, Jermaine Dupri, and Dallas Austin were heavily influential on this album and it was evident.

By their second album, the girls were showing how much they'd grown. Their sensual, more mature sides were prevalent on CrazySexyCool. This is hands down one of my favorite albums because of its composition. It wasn't just thrown together and that's important. Listeners were able to here more from Chilli and T-Boz this time around. Songs like "Red Light Special" and "Diggin on You" revealed more of their vocal personalities. But they didn't stray away from their hip hop roots by bringing Sean Combs to the production team.

Despite TLC's success, they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1995. The group saw just how flaky its contract was as time went on. After negotiations with LaFace, the group was able to buy the rights to their name. They recorded the theme song to the Nickelodeon show, All That. They also appeared on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.

The girls had their own various projects they worked on before coming back to record FanMail. Dallas Austin produced the majority of the album and he also had a child with Chili. By this time, TLC were more comfortable singing about their sexuality. Tracks like "Don't Pull Out on Me Yet" and "I'm Good at Being Bad" aren't necessarily family-friendly. But the group maintained a balance of love and self-worth as they'd done in the past.

Unfortunately, Left Eye didn't feel like she could really be herself in the group. She went on to not only record her own album, but challenged the other girls to do the same. Eventually, though, they settled their beef. Before Left Eye could finish her second album, she was killed in a car crash in Honduras. T-Boz and Chilli went on hiatus, but returned to complete the group's fourth album, 3D.

It's hard to mention girl groups of the 90s without considering the impact TLC had on this culture. They were bold enough to conceal their sexuality when skin was in while making music people could appreciate. TLC's track record was consistent and I can't say that I've been disappointed as a fan.

Outro by @TrueGodImmortal
-For a young True, TLC was pretty much what you looked for in a woman. They represented the right amount of balance, rooted in toughness, being relatable, empowerment for women, sex appeal, and everything in between. They presented their music in a way that many could not, and with their albums they managed to showcase different sides. Though their first album was a truly young minded fun look into these three ladies and their process, it would be the diamond selling 2nd album that featured them as more refined and much more mature. When the sounds of "Red Light Special" hit, you know instantly where the mood takes you. They've been responsible for some anthems that truly had substance behind a nice beat and catchy hooks, such as "Waterfalls" and "Unpretty". While I've never been a fan of the song "No Scrubs" because I think the lyrics are quite ironic (and I appreciated Sporty Thieves for "No Pigeons"), the song became an anthem for women all over and that's what TLC did. They managed to speak to and for women, to provide them another voice on music to just say what you want to say. There will likely never be another group like TLC and I can honestly say I've never heard a female group put an album that's even halfway close to CrazySexyCool. That remains one of the best R&B group albums of all time. TLC lives on forever, and their music still stands the test of time. They have been rumored to have a new album dropping in 2016 and that seems very likely considering the Kickstarter campaign they successfully started. Left Eye's brother is working with T-Boz and Chilli to make sure that her vocals can be used all over the album, and I suspect that the nostalgia factor will be overwhelming by the time that album drops. Long live TLC.



Popular Posts