VH1 is kicking off TLC week with a guide to the group’s lives and musical career. The second best selling female group of all time (only behind the Spice Girls) sold over 23 million albums and 6.5 million singles in the United States alone. Without Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, fans would not have “Waterfalls,” “No Scrubs” or “Baby-Baby-Baby,” all of which served as the soundtrack to the ’90s.
You can’t write about TLC and not mention the flaming elephant in the room. In 1994 (a big year for the group, see: H, N), Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes tossed a bunch of Atlanta Falcons player Andre Rison’s shoes into a bathtub, covered them in lighter fluid and lit them on fire. The flames quickly spread, burning down Rison’s home. Charged with arson, Lopes was forced into rehab but let out for recording sessions for CrazySexyCool. Her recovery served as her inspiration for the iconic verse in their mega-hit, “Waterfalls.”
Signed by Lopes, the group was modeled after TLC. Blaque was comprised of three members, one of them – Natina Reed – a rapper. They broke onto the scene in the late ’90s with “808” and “Bring It All To Me.” Unfortunately their path also followed Lopes’ tragic fate when Reed died in a car accident.
Condoms became an unexpected fashion accessory for the group in their early days. Lopes famously wore one as an eyepatch over her left eye. The condoms were part of the goal to promote safe sex. “The point is to make condoms something kids aren’t afraid of or ashamed of,” Lopes said in 1992.
Totaling in $3.5 million, TLC found itself swimming in debt in 1995. The group eventually filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the middle of the success of CrazySexyCool. The group cited Lopes’ rising insurance payments, Watkins’ medical bills and only taking home $35,000 a year as reason for their financial problems. They claimed they were unfairly paid by their label receiving only seven percent of revenues from album sales.
E: Edmonds, Kenneth “Babyface”
Babyface, who alongside L.A. Reid, signed TLC to LaFace Records also served as a producer for much of their career. Him, Reid, Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri were pivotal in shaping the group’s sound, which evolved from New Jack Swing to sultry R&B to futuristic pop.