TLC is an American musical trio whose repertoire spanned R&B, hip hop, soul, funk, and new jack swing. Originally consisting of singer Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and singer Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, the group found success in the 1990s while also enduring a series of spats with the law, each other, and the group's record label.
Initially, TLC achieved commercial success following the release of their debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, which sold six million copies worldwide. However, it was their second studio album, CrazySexyCool that catapulted the group to superstar status. CrazySexyCool went on to be certified diamond by the RIAA a first for a female group, and eventually sold 23 million copies worldwide. Five years later, the group released FanMail, which became the group's first album to debut at number one and sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. The subsequent tour following FanMail's release became the highest grossing tour of all time by a female band.
Billboard magazine ranked TLC as one of the greatest musical trios. Between 1992 and 2003, the band accumulated ten top ten singles, four number one singles, four multi-platinum albums, and four Grammy Awards. At the end of 1999, TLC was ranked as the seventh most successful act of the 1990s by Billboard. In 2008, the group was inducted into the All Time Hot 100 Artist Hall of Fame by the same magazine, at 56th place. That year it was also listed as the #25 R&B/hip-hop artist of the preceding 25 years. TLC has sold more than 65 million records worldwide  and they are ranked as the second best selling female group, and the best selling female R&B group of all time.
In 1990-1991, Atlanta, Georgia, teenager Crystal Jones put out a call for two more girls to join her in a trio to be called 2nd Nature. Her request was eventually answered by Tionne Watkins, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, who moved to Atlanta with her family at an early age, and Lisa Lopes, a rapper who had just moved to the city from her native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with only a keyboard and US$750 ($NaN today).
The group eventually managed to arrange an audition with R&B singer Perri "Pebbles" Reid, who had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone. Impressed by the girls, Reid renamed the group "TLC" (an acronym of the first letters of each of their names) and arranged an audition for them with local record label LaFace Records, run by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Reid's then-husband, Antonio "L.A." Reid. The latter Reid saw potential in Watkins and Lopes but felt that Jones should be replaced; within a few days, part-time Damian Dame backup dancer Rozonda Thomas was brought in to replace Jones. Thomas was christened with the nickname "Chilli" so as to keep the TLC name, while Watkins became "T-Boz" and Lopes was named "Left Eye". The girls were signed to LaFace through a production deal with Pebbitone (with Perri Reid taking the role of the group's manager) (see artist development deal) and immediately went into the studio with producers Reid and Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and Marley Marl to produce their first album.
1991-1994: Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip
The first TLC album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, was released on February 25, 1992 by LaFace. The songs on the album are a blend of funk (Watkins), hip-hop (Lopes), and R&B (Thomas), similar to the "new jack swing" sound popularized by producer Teddy Riley in the late 1980s (and TLC's sound was sometimes cited as an example of the "new jill swing" genre). The album was a critical and commercial success, being certified quadruple-platinum within a year and launching a number of US Hot 100 top-ten singles with "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "What About Your Friends", and "Baby-Baby-Baby" which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.
TLC's lyrics, chiefly written by Lopes and Dallas Austin, were playful, female-empowering anthems characterized by Lopes's quirky, nasal-toned raps, Watkins's low-voiced lead vocals, and Thomas's powerful vocals and harmonization. The musical formula was augmented by the girls' brightly colored videos and curious costuming: each girl wore wrapped condoms on their clothing (Lopes also wore one over her left eye in a pair of glasses).
During TLC's first national tour, as MC Hammer's opening act, Lopes and Thomas discovered that Watkins had sickle-cell disease, an ailment which she kept a closely guarded secret until she became ill while TLC was touring the Southwest US. Watkins continued to battle her condition and eventually became a spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in the late 1990s. At the conclusion of the tour, TLC decided to take more control of their careers and thus informed Perri Reid that they no longer wished her to be their manager. Reid released the group from its management deal, but they remained signed to Pebbitone, and Reid continued to receive a share of their earnings. Also in 1994, TLC played the musical group "Sex as a Weapon" in the New Line Cinema feature film House Party 3, starring Kid 'n Play.
Lopes began dating Atlanta Falcons American football player Andre Rison shortly after the release of Oooohhh... On the TLC Tip, and by 1994 the two were living together in Rison's upscale double-story home. Their relationship was allegedly filled with violent moments, and Lopes filed an assault charge against Rison on September 2, 1993. Rison denied battering her. Lopes was also battling alcoholism at the time. She had been a heavy drinker since the age of fifteen. After another fight between the couple in the early morning hours of June 9, 1994, Lopes tossed numerous pairs of Rison's newly purchased shoes into a bathtub, doused them with lighter fluid, and lit them on fire. The plexiglas bathtub quickly melted and set the structural frame of the house on fire. Lopes was arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree arson; she was sentenced to five years of probation and a $10,000 fine. Rison eventually reconciled with Lopes, and they continued dating on and off for around three and a half years.
During early 1994, TLC re-entered the studio with Dallas Austin, Tim & Bob, Jermaine Dupri, Babyface, Organized Noize, and Sean "Puffy" Combs to record their second album, CrazySexyCool. Lopes was released from rehab to attend the recording sessions, but the finished album featured significantly less of her raps and vocals. The album instead focused more on the contributions from Watkins and Thomas, and had a smoother, more fluid sound, similar to the most successful single from the first album, the US #2 hit "Baby-Baby-Baby". All four singles from CrazySexyCool reached the top 5 of the US Hot 100, while "Creep" and "Waterfalls" peaked at no. 1, while Red Light Special reached no. 2 and "Diggin' on You" reached no. 5. "Waterfalls", an Organized Noise-produced song that featured an old-school soul-based musical arrangement, socially conscious lyrics criticizing drug dealing and unsafe sex, and an introspective rap from Lopes, became TLC's biggest hit, and its million-dollar music video was an MTV staple for many months. Also in 1994, TLC recorded the theme song to Nickelodeon's popular sketch comedy All That which ran for ten seasons.
CrazySexyCool eventually sold over 11 million copies in the US, and became one of the first albums to ever receive a diamond certification from the RIAA, and won a 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album and a 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for "Creep". However, in the midst of their apparent success, the members of TLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3, 1995.
They declared debts totaling $3.5 million, much of it because of Lopes's insurance payments arising from the arson incident and Watkins's medical bills, but the primary reason being that each member of the group was taking home less than $35,000 a year after paying managers, producers, expenses, and taxes. They sought to renegotiate their 1991 contract with LaFace, under which they only received seven percent of the revenues from their album sales, and to dissolve their association with Pebbitone. Both Pebbitone and LaFace countered that TLC simply wanted more money and were in no real financial danger, resulting in two years of legal debates before the cases were finally settled in late 1996. TLC's contract was renegotiated, their production deal with Pebbitone and Perri Reid (who had separated from her husband by this time) was rescinded, and the group appeared on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack with "This Is How It Works" (a song written by Babyface and Lopes) and was set to re-enter the recording studio in 1997 after signing a new contract with LaFace/Arista.
Preliminary work on TLC's third album, FanMail, was delayed when friction arose between the group and their main producer Dallas Austin, who was by this time dating Thomas and helping to raise their young son Tron. Austin wanted $4.2 million and creative control to work on the project, resulting in a stand-off between the producer and the artists. During this period, Thomas appeared in the independent film HavPlenty, and Watkins co-starred in Hype Williams (who later directed the "No Scrubs" video)' 1998 film Belly with rappers Nas and DMX. Watkins made a solo song in late 1996 called "Touch Myself". Lopes started her own Lopes Productions artist development company and signed Blaque, a TLC-like female R&B trio. She also appeared on the "Not Tonight" remix with fellow female rappers Lil' Kim, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Da Brat and Angie Martinez, which garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo, Band, or Group in 1998.
TLC eventually began working with other producers for the FanMail album, until finally negotiating with Austin, who produced the bulk of FanMail and gave the album a futuristic, more pop-based feel. FanMail was another success for TLC, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart and selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. The album featured the number-one hit "No Scrubs", produced by Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, and the single "Unpretty", an alternative rock-styled song about self-love written by Watkins and Dallas Austin (another version of it sampled Dennis Edwards' 1984 hit "Don't Look Any Further"), that also reached #1 on the Billboard chart. At the Lady of Soul Awards the group was honored with the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award.
The videos for both songs were heavily featured on MTV and BET, and three more singles received decent radio play: "Silly Ho", "I'm Good at Being Bad", and Edmonds-written ballad, "Dear Lie". Like CrazySexyCool, FanMail won the Grammy for Best R&B Album of 2000 and Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "No Scrubs". The group went on a worldwide tour simply named FanMail Tour. While the first leg of the tour sold poorly and made the group lose $500,000 dollars, most of the second leg of the tour was sold out. The group had a PayPerView special of their tour which at the time became PayPerView's highest grossing televised special. The tour went on to gross more than $72.8 million dollars according to Billboard which became the highest grossing tour by a female group.
During and after the release of FanMail, Lopes made it known to the press on multiple occasions that she felt that she was unable to fully express herself working with TLC and Austin. Her contributions to the songs had been reduced to periodic eight-bar raps, and studio session singers such as Debra Killings often took her place on the background vocals for the group's songs. In its November 28, 1999 issue, Entertainment Weekly ran a letter from Lopes that challenged her group mates to record solo albums and let the fans judge which of the three was the most talented:
"I challenge Tionne 'Player' Watkins (T-boz) and Rozonda 'Hater' Thomas (Chilli) to an album entitled The Challenge... a 3-CD set that contains three solo albums. Each (album)... will be due to the record label by October 1, 2000... I also challenge producer Dallas 'The Manipulator' Austin to produce all of the material and do it at a fraction of his normal rate. As I think about it, I'm sure LaFace would not mind throwing in a $1.5 million dollar prize for the winner."
The ladies eventually settled the feud, and The Challenge was never followed through. After the conclusion of the successful FanMail tour, the ladies, however, took some time off and pursued personal interests. Lopes was the first to begin recording her solo album, Supernova. In 2000, Spice Girl Melanie C released a single co-written with Lopes in the UK and Europe, called "Never Be the Same Again"; it became a hit reaching #1 in many countries.
2001-2004: 3D and the death of Left Eye
Before the recording of their fourth album, 3D, Lopes originally wanted to withdraw from the group in order to see if they could duplicate their prior success without her contributions. Lopes eventually pursued solo stardom and recorded her first album Supernova, however it underperformed overseas and was never officially released in the United States. Before her second solo album was completed, Lopes died in a car crash while filming a documentary in Honduras, which would later be released as The Last Days of Left Eye in 2007 on VH1.
Returning from yet another hiatus after Lopes' death, Watkins, Thomas and Austin decided that they would complete the remainder of their fourth album, to be called 3D, which also featured production from Rodney Jerkins, The Neptunes, Raphael Saadiq, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. The decision was also made that TLC would retire after the release and promotion of 3D, rather than replace Lopes and continue. Lopes had already completed her vocals for four songs; the remainder were performed by the remaining group members alone, who eulogized Lopes on a number of the tracks.
The first single for 3D was "Girl Talk", the video for which featured Watkins and Thomas alone in live-action segments and Lopes in animated segments. Its follow-up, "Hands Up", featured only Watkins and Thomas in its video, but took place in a nightclub named Club Lopes (Lopes' production company's "eye" logo was a prominent feature on the club's walls). The album sold two million copies in its first year of release, and "Girl Talk" was the only single to reach the U.S. top forty with a peak position of number 28; "Hands Up" never charted, and a third single, "Damaged", reached number 53. However, the singles enjoyed a bit more success in Europe and Asia. 3D went on to sell nearly 2 million copies in the US alone.
In June 2003, at Zootopia, an annual concert hosted by New York radio station Z100 held at Giants Stadium, TLC appeared in what was announced to be their last performance. The group, introduced by Carson Daly, showed a video montage dedicated to Lopes, and went on to perform songs against video footage of Lopes performing the same songs, and wearing the same outfits, that were appearing onstage. TLC performed to 60,000 fans.
2004-2006: Now & Forever: The Hits
In 2005, LaFace had scheduled the release of Now and Forever: The Hits, a TLC greatest hits album with a new song, "Come Get Some", featuring Lil Jon and Sean P of the YoungBloodZ. However, the compilation was not released domestically until June 2005, although versions of the compilation were released internationally in 2004 and the album was also available as a legal download from the iTunes Store in November 2004. On June 21, 2005, Now and Forever: The Hits was quietly released in the United States; the album debuted at number 53 with 20,000 copies sold.
On May 15, 2007, Now and Forever: The Video Hits was released in the United States, after over four years of delayed release dates.
On August 20, 2007, a new greatest hits album was released in the UK called Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC, a play on the group's best selling album title Crazy Sexy Cool. Now and Forever: The Video Hits was also released in the UK for the first time on the same date. The album fared better than previous compilation Now and Forever: The Hits, peaking at #57 on the UK album chart (Now and Forever: The Hits made #86).
On June 25, 2004, Watkins and Thomas announced that they were pitching a reality television show where contestants would compete for a chance to record a single and perform in concert with the two of them. The show was eventually picked up for development by UPN. R U the Girl with Watkins and Thomas debuted on UPN on July 27, 2005. The winner of the show would record with them on a new single and perform the track with them in a live concert finale in Atlanta. Roughly 4.1 million viewers tuned in for the season finale of R U The Girl on September 20, 2005, with 20-year-old Tiffany "O'so Krispie" Baker as the winner. Despite media speculation that the winner of the series was to become a new, permanent member of TLC, Watkins and Thomas have vowed to never replace Lopes with a new member.
On October 4, 2005, "I Bet", the first new Watkins and Thomas single in over two years, was released to radio and iTunes, credited to "R U The Girl with Watkins & Thomas" with no mention of the TLC name on the package. The song was also appended to pressings of Now and Forever: The Hits released after October 11, 2005. "I Bet" failed to chart in America and Europe, ending reports that Watkins and Thomas were putting the finishing touches on a repackaged Greatest Hits album.
2007present: Television appearances, tour, new album, and biopic
On June 24, 2008, Watkins and Thomas made a special appearance on the BET Awards. They, along with the original members of En Vogue and SWV, performed in Alicia Keys' tribute to girl groups. Watkins, Thomas, and Keys performed "Waterfalls". Watkins and Thomas were also presenters at the BETJ Virtual Awards on November 25, 2008.
In March 2009, Watkins and Thomas announced plans to perform together in a concert series in Japan featuring seventeen of TLC's songs. On August 25, 2009, it was announced that the group would perform at the Justin Timberlake and Friends benefit concert at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center on October 17, 2009. At the concert, Watkins announced that she and Thomas plan to record new material. In July 2010, T-Boz and Chilli set out to Japan for several days to perform shows.
In May 2011, TLC performed on American Idol and received a standing ovation from the audience.
Music TV channel VH1 have announced plans to produce a biopic based on the group, with Watkins and Thomas signed up as consultants and executive producers. To mark Left Eye's 10th anniversary, TLC announced that a possible new album was in production as well as a tour with Lisa's moving image projected on a screen behind the performers, as was done at the 2003 Zootopia show. Via Twitter, Watkins stated that she and Rozonda were once in talks with L.A. Reid's Epic Records for a new TLC album, that they would of liked to release after the biopic.
TLC recorded a cover of the song "Rainbow" for a tribute album to the popular Japanese rock band L'Arc~En~Ciel. The tribute album, which features covers by Boyz II Men, Daniel Powter and Maxi Priest, was released June 13, 2012. On the 7th of September 2012, Chilli made an appearance on Good Afternoon America, where the host of the show, confirmed that TLC will be releasing a new Album in 2013. Watkins revealed on a popular Atlanta radio station, that she and Chilli will start to record for the VH1 biopic soundtrack soon. The soundtrack will feature new recordings of some of their hits, and will feature new songs. Watkins and Thomas both reveled via their official Twitter accounts, that they turned down the recording contract they were negotiating with Epic Records.
On October 7, 2012, British pop group Stooshe released a music video for their cover of "Waterfalls". T Boz and Chilli also made a special appearance in the music video.
TLC was honored for their outstanding contribution to music at 17th annual Mobo Awards on November 3, 2012.
- Main article: TLC discography
- Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip (1992)
- CrazySexyCool (1994)
- FanMail (1999)
- 3D (2002)
Awards and nominations
|Year||Result||Award||Category||Song or Album|
|1993||Nominated||Grammy Award||Best R&B Song||"Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg"|
|1996||Won||Best R&B Album||CrazySexyCool|
|Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Creep"|
|Nominated||Record of the Year||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Waterfalls"|
|2000||Won||Best R&B Album||Fanmail|
|Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"No Scrubs"|
|Nominated||Album of the Year||Fanmail|
|Record of the Year||"No Scrubs"|
|Song of the Year||"Unpretty"|
|Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Unpretty"|
|Best Music Video, Short Form||"Unpretty"|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Girl Talk"|
|2004||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Hands Up"|
|1995||Won||MTV Video Music Awards||Video of the Year||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Group Video||"Waterfalls"|
|Best R&B Video||"Waterfalls"|
|Nominated||Best Special Effects||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Art Direction||"Waterfalls"|
|1999||Won||Best Group Video||"No Scrubs|
|Nominated||Viewer's Choice||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Hip Hop Video||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Editing||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Direction||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Art Direction||"No Scrubs"|
|1996||Won||Billboard Music Award||Artist of the Year||
|R&B Artist of the Year||
|R&B Single of the Year||"Creep"|
|1997||Nominated||American Music Award||Favorite Soul/R&B Album||CrazySexyCool|
|Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group||
|Favorite Artist of the Year||
|2000||Won||Favorite Band, Duo or Group Soul/Rhythm & Blues||
|1996||Won||Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"Creep"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year Group, Band or Duo||CrazySexyCool|
|1997||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"Waterfalls"|
|1999||Aretha Franklin Award (Entertainer of the Year)||
|Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"No Scrubs"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year Group, Band or Duo||Fanmail|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"Girl Talk"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year Group, Band or Duo||3D|
|1997||Won||Soul Train Music Award||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"Waterfalls"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album Group, Band or Duo||CrazySexyCool|
|Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video||"Waterfalls"|
|1999||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"No Scrubs"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album Group, Band or Duo||Fanmail|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B/Soul Single Group, Band or Duo||"Girl Talk"|
|2003||Nominated||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Duo or Group||
|Wikipedia books are collections of articles that can be downloaded or ordered in print.|
- List of best-selling music artists in the United States
- List of best-selling girl groups
- Battersby, Matilda, TLC plan first album since Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes' death, The Independent, 2012-11-05.
- Billboard Greatest Trios of All Time. Billboard. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-05-13.
- The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved on 2008-11-17.
- Template error: argument title is required.
- Thomas, Rebecca, TLCs Left Eye Remembered: 10 Years Later, MTV (MTV Networks), 2012-04-25. URL accessed on 2012-07-11.
- 6.0 6.1 Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches, p. 473, Chicago Review Press.
- T-Boz: Singer. people.com (2000-05-08). Retrieved on 2008-10-26.
- Jones, Solomon. Over the Waterfall. philadelphiaweekly.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-27.
- 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Artist Chart History TLC. billboard.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-27.
- TLC Grammy Award Wins. grammy.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-27.
- Henriques, Diana B. and Samuels, Anita M. (February 5, 1996). Does Going 'Broke' Mean Artist Really Doesn't Have Any Money?. New York Times. Archived from the original on October 10, 2004.
- 19984th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. soultrain.com. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
- Sinclair, Tom (1999-11-26). Three To Tangle. ew.com. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
- Reid, Shaheem (2003-06-02). TLC Say Goodbye, Beleaguered Ja Rule Basks In Limelight At Zootopia Show. mtv.com. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
- O'SO KRISPIE IS CHOSEN AS THE GIRL IN "R U THE GIRL WITH T-BOZ & CHILLI". thefutoncritic.com (2005-02-09). Retrieved on 2009-05-10.
- Goodson, Dave. Proven Hotness. bet.com. Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
- TLC Plan Japan Reunion Tour. express.co.uk (2009-03-23). Retrieved on 2009-05-11.
- TLC's T-Boz and Chilli Reuniting at Justin Timberlake and Friends Concert. American Superstar Magazine (2009-08-25). Retrieved on 2009-08-25.
- Vena, Jocelyn; Elias, Matt (2009-10-09). TLC Ready To 'Change People's Lives' With New Music. mtv.com. Retrieved on 2009-11-14.
- Tlc - Tlc Plan Japan Reunion Tour. Contactmusic.com (March 23, 2009). Retrieved on November 13, 2010.
- VH1 Announces Plans To Produce A New TLC Movie
- TLC remembers Lisa Left Eye Lopes on the 10th anniversary of her passing
- EXCLUSIVE: TLC's T-Boz and Chilli Remember Left Eye on the 10th Anniversary of Her Death
- London Evening Standard (2012). A touch of TLC at the Mobo Awards. London Evening Standard. Retrieved on 2012-11-01.
- TLC at MTV.com
- TLC discography at iMusic.am
- TLC at All Music Guide
- TLC at Discogs.com
- TLC at the Internet Movie Database
Studio albums: Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip (1992) CrazySexyCool (1994) FanMail (1999) 3D (2002)
Other albums: Now and Forever: The Hits (2003)
Solo Albums: Point of View (2007)
Solo Singles: Straight Jack (2007)
Singles: "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" "Baby-Baby-Baby" "What About Your Friends" "Hat 2 Da Back" "Get It Up" "Creep" "Red Light Special" "Waterfalls" "Diggin' On You" "Silly Ho" "No Scrubs" "Unpretty" "Dear Lie" "Girl Talk" "Hands Up" "Damaged" "Turntable" "Come Get Some" "I Bet"