Synopsis of Pop Music

“I don’t want your number,
I don’t want to give you mine,
I don’t want to meet you nowhere,
I don’t want none of your time...”

Gimmicky music groups are assembled by ambitious managers and businessmen all the time. The young members are made-over and fed songs to sing, they’re taught to dance and tease the camera, and more often than not, they don't emerge as having too much individual personality of their own. It’s about the product, not the person—and the product goes in whatever direction the Svengali behind the scene dictates. TLC defies the regular Svengali course of things, however. Yes, they were plucked from obscurity and yes, they were shrewdly molded into hip-hop stars. But these girls—Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes and Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas—are absolute individuals, which proved to be a bit of wrench in the star-making works, but also made them incredibly appealing.

Singer/producer Perri “Pebbles” Reid found the girls in Atlanta, Georgia, when they were a mere twenty years old and toiling away at their everyday jobs. Pebbles negotiated a recording contract with LaFace Records, a label that was co-founded by Antonio Reid (her husband) and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. The trio’s name came from the initials of their nicknames, their sound was described as “New Jill Swing” (a female spin on “New Jack Swing”) and their image was predicated, at first, upon their patented condoms-as-accessories look—a brand new type of safe-sex endorsement. TLC’s debut album, Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip, was released in 1991. Boasting the singles, “Ain’t 2 Proud to Beg,” “Baby, Baby, Baby” and “What About Your Friends,” the LP went on to sell over four million copies.

Compared with the melodrama of the next few years, however, the old and much-talked-about condom fixation was nothing. An inebriated Lopes set fire to her boyfriend (and then-Atlanta Falcon) Andre Rison’s home and smashed a couple of unsuspecting parked cars to top the rampage off. She and Rison reconciled quickly, but she and her legal trouble didn’t. Lopes was heavily fined and ordered into rehab, and through it all, delighted the press with her tough, uber-honest and often inflammatory commentary--on both her own life and the future of the band.

The sales of Crazysexycool certainly weren’t hurt by the controversy. Produced by Austin, Babyface and Sean “Puffy” Combs, their mature, polished sophomore record leaned more toward r&b than rap, featuring appearances from Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest's Phife. It sold over four million, was nominated for six Grammys, and had three #1 singles (“Creep,” “Red Light Special” and “Waterfalls”). In 1995, the trio toured with Boyz II Men, and unpleasantly, filed for bankruptcy because of debts from their splintering, in-fighting record label, as well as the still-lurking insurance claims from Lopes’ bout with pyromania.

While the lawyers and the suits had it out, the girls concentrated on outside interests. T-Boz made her bout with sickle cell anemia known, and became a national spokesperson for the disease. Chilli had a baby boy with producer Austin and continued to choreograph the trio’s stage acts. Both she and T-Boz tried their hand at acting. Left Eye did a stint as the hostess of MTV’s “The Cut.” They reconvened in ’98 and released Fan Mail early the next year—an album devoted to the people who had stuck by the girls through all of the past years’ tumult and never minded the long pockets of time in between records. Slightly more aggressive than records past, its singles included “No Scrubs” and “I’m Good at Being Bad.”

Surely, future headlines will devote themselves to the TLC ladies, and whatever musical endeavor or side project or controversy materializes, rest assured that this is no grinning, obedient robot trio. These, poor Mr. Svengali, these are individuals.

Artist Release History

1992 - Ooooooohhh.On the TLC Tip
1994 - Crazysexycool
1999 - Fanmail

Pop Sub Categories

hip hop

Essential Music Albums

Crazysexycool (LaFace, 1994)

Band Members

Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins vocals
Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes vocals
Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas vocals

Other Pop Music Links