TLC

  • All girl R&B/Hip Hop group formed in 1991 in Atlanta Georgia. Members were Tionne ‘T-Bone’ Watkins, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas.
  • In 1990, Atlanta based record producer Ian Burke and a teenage client named Crystal Jones decided to create an all-girl hip hop group with a tomboyish image. Putting out a call for 2 more members, Watkins and Lopes were recruited. Jones, Watkins and Lopes called themselves 2nd Nature, and started working with local producers.
  • Perri “Pebbles” Reid, a singer and production company owner, watched the trio audition and was impressed. She renamed them TLC-Skee (‘TLC’ for Tionne, Lisa and Crystal). She arranged for an audition with an Atlanta record label. The label saw potential, but wanted to replace Jones.
  • In 1991, Watkins and Lopes signed contracts with Reid to manage them, and soon Thomas was added to replace Jones. The group name was shortened to TLC, and the members were given the monikers T-Bone, Left Eye, and Chilli to maintain the acronym for their names. They quickly signed with the record company, and began working on an album.
  • Each woman brought a sound to the group. Watkins had a funk sound to her, while Lopes was a hip hopper and Thomas was an R&B artist.
  • Their debut album, Ooooooohhh…On The TLC Tip, was released in 1992. It was a huge success, selling over 4 million albums, and scoring 3 top 10 hits – Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, Baby-Baby-Baby (peaking at #2), and What About Your Friends.
  • TLC’s follow-up album was released in 1994 – CrazySexyCool. It stayed on the Billboard 200 album chart for over 2 years, and sold over 11 million copies in the U.S., with worldwide sales of over 23 million copies. It is the only album ever by a female singing group to exceed 10 million records sold. All 4 singles reached top 5 – Creep and Waterfalls hit #1. They won 2 Grammy awards for Creep, and the video for Waterfalls won Video of the Year from MTV, the first black artists to win the award (hard to believe that didn’t happen before 1995).
  • After working out disputes with their record and management companies, as well as with one another, their third album, FanMail, was released in 1999. It was another huge success, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 Album chart, selling over 6 million copies in the U.S., and winning 3 Grammy awards. The singles hitting #1 were No Scrubs and Unpretty. The concert tour to promote the album grossed more the $72 million – the largest grossing tour by a female group ever.
  • In April 2002, Lisa Left Eye Lopes was killed in an automobile accident in Honduras. A new album had been in production, and Watkins and Thomas decided to continue with its release. Lopes had already contributed vocals to 4 tracks. 3D was released in November 2002. While the album sold well (over 2 million copies in the U.S.), the singles did not chart well – Girl Talk peaked at #28 and the others could not break into the top 50.
  • In the aftermath of Lopes’ death, Thomas and Watkins chose not to replace her.  They occasionally performed as a duo at special events. In 2015, they announced that a final album would be developed. On June 30, 2017, the album was released. Titled TLC, it features just Thomas and Watkins, with a couple songs featuring Snoop Dogg. Since their rapper is no longer with them, the album is a bit more pop compared to their early work.
  • As music evolved in the 90s, TLC was a major part of that evolution. Women artists from 2000 onward consider TLC as significant trailblazers, influencing their work even now. I like their work – well produced R&B that I get to tap my foot to. Here’s the award winning video Waterfalls, which cost over $1 million to produce.

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