TLC Touchdown

Written by Dom Loomes


Born from the diverse rhymes and insane advances in ‘90s hip hop and R&B, TLC are one of the most renowned groups in the game. With huge universally acclaimed songs and easily-known lyrics, TLC are comfortably one the best-selling female groups of the late 20th century. By the late ‘90s, the group had been awarded three multi-platinum albums and nine Top 10 Hot 100 hits to their name. Junction 1 have the privilege of introducing the band back to the UK since their 2017 tour. Be prepared for a mellow yet moving time warp back to the revolutionary days of Hip Hop and playful poetry.

Consisting of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, the trio dynamically dresses to all types of audiences and ages, mixing catchy hooks with fun and funky wordplay along with their equally real and raw confidence to deliver record after record. Their look and style perfectly mirror their sounds, with a flamboyant and resplendent wardrobe to match.

Atlanta, Georgia, in 1991 was the place where the TLC seed was sown. Watkins and Lopes were originally part of other girl groups but split off to form a more fruitful alliance. The two eventually met Thomas, local-based producer Dallas Austin, and Pebbles, a singer, songwriter, and producer, who became their core manager. The crew quickly scored a record signing with L.A Reid and Babyface’s upcoming label, LaFace, and in early 1992 TLC’s debut studio album ‘Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip’ was released. The carefully curated compilation quickly rose to number 14 on the US Billboard 200 and has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), disseminating record shipments in a rich profusion of four million copies in the US alone, and six million worldwide. The album ranks number three on their most successful albums, just after ‘CrazySexyCool’ and ‘Fanmail’ respectively. The title of the collection originates from the last line of Left Eye’s flow on “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg ''. The lead single “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg '' evoked provocative, animated, and even educational themes. Lopes summoned attention to her use of visual imagery by wearing a condom over her left eye, promoting safe sex, and living up to her sobriquet. The attitude and activity that the song embodied was not only a novel sound, but a powerful, colourful, and unique alternative to normative hip hop; challenging the current zeitgeist of the early 90s scene. The fun and fresh fashion sense of the trio also disrupted stereotypes, presented graphically loud symbols for femininity, and changed the trajectory of an often male-dominated industry. This tune as well as “Baby-Baby-Baby '' and “What About Your Friends” were rewarded a place on the top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Hat 2 Da Back” receiving a top 30 single position. The term “new jack swing” is a fusion of hip hop, dance-pop, and urban R&B sounds. TLC and many other artists of the same period became synonymous with the genre and spearheaded new and vibrant ways of expression, song, and dance. With new musical foundations, TLC continued to evolve, pushing all boundaries, and influencing many similar artists such as 702, Destiny’s Child, SWV, Jade, and Lopes-produced Blaque.

Their second album ‘CrazySexyCool’ in November 1994 is quite plausibly the work that set them aside from the frontiers of novice rap, distorting and transforming their reality into the stars we all know. Smooth, slick, and sophisticated, the album is very different from their first musical selection. With more elegance and experience, the group revealed their true and transparent selves, delivering further on the grounds of originality, sharp sounds, and carving their own material, with Lopez, in particular, showing her powers as an upcoming emcee. “CrazySexyCool” is filled with an array of recognisable tracks and deep grooves, with certain songs such as “Creep,” “Waterfalls,” and “Red Light Special” becoming sounds that defined the 90s era, right into the Century, and within the modern-day, are nostalgic and sensual reminders of feel-good moments. This prodigious album was a carefully curated and critically acclaimed collection. Rolling Stones graded it among the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and it obtained a diamond certification from the RIAA. Internationally, sales surpassed 23 million copies, with “CrazySexyCool” considered as one of the greatest and go-to albums for celebrations; and some of the smoothest and propulsive rhythms to date.

In the same period, TLC co-created many film and TV productions. The trinity made an appearance on the soundtrack album of Forest Whitaker’s 1995 film Waiting to Exhale with their single “This Is How It Works,” a group-written creation by Babyface and Lopes. TLC also had high publication with their theme song for Arnold Henning’s popular sketch comedy All That, airing on Nickelodeon from 1994 to 2005, with the show also being reintroduced in 2019. With each member growing in similar ways, yet with distinct techniques, Watkins began to demonstrate her true talent with her “Touch Myself” solo release featuring an illustrious remix from Richie Rich. The single also featured on the 1996 soundtrack album of Kevin Hook’s film Fled. Lopes’ solo journey was also high-yielding, sharing her flows with fellow female rappers Angie Martinez, Missy “Misdemeanour” Elliot, Da Brat on Lil Kim’s head-bouncing track “Not Tonight.” This female fusion set the bar, peaking at number six on the Hot 100, and was shortlisted for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 40th Grammy Awards. In 1998, Lopes announced her decision to make a solo album, with Watkins likewise experiencing alternative creative opportunities with her acting role in the Hype Williams-directed “Belly”.

After their huge and hailed second album and diver, TLC took a four-year pause before recording their third album release. Titled “Fanmail,” the piece was dedicated to the loyalty and support of their amassed fan network. Hotly anticipated, the timely and mastered collection was released in February 1999 after seven strong months of recording, with imminent approval, striking a number one debut. Its first single, “No Scrubs” is arguably the group’s most auspicious and acclaimed song ever to leave the production studio. This euphonic enclave ascended into the top Hot 100, with the song essentially becoming the group’s most respective release, and the identity of their stardom. TLC’s “Fanmail” eventually found itself going six-times platinum and was also awarded another Best R&B Album Grammy. From this album, TLC also became the first R&B group in the history of music to receive the Million certification from the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ).

When the 21st Century arrived, new relationships and events would shape the TLC path. Come 2001, TLC regrouped and entered the production studio as three, working on new material for their upcoming album. Nonetheless, the recording was intercepted when Watlkins was hospitalised due to complications with anemia. Lopes hoped to release her solo debut “Supernova” in 2001 yet the process took longer to build than anticipated. In 2002, Lopes signed a solo deal with the notorious Suge Knight’s new label, “Tha Row,” for which she would begin to record a secondary solo release to her unreleased Supernova track, this time under the title N.I.N.A (New Identity Non-Applicable). However, Lopes never had the chance. To the misfortunate of Lopes, her family, friends, fans, and all, during a holiday in Honduras, when driving, Lopes miscalculated the road ahead, and fatally lost control of her vehicle. She was rushed to hospital with severe concussions, yet shortly passed on April 25, 2002. Watkins and Thomas, deeply saddened and confronting difficult and nebulous circumstances, decided to complete “3D,” the album they had been habitually working on. The perseverance and materialisation of the musical piece was a symbolic tribute to Lopes, and the bond, and journey the group had so wonderfully walked. The album was released later in the same year. Even though none of the singles reached the Top Ten, when released, the album itself landed at number six and was enshrined double platinum.

In 2003, Watkins and Thomas, the now duo TLC, staged their first performance at New York radio station’s Z100’s Zootropia concert in June 2003. Lopes was not entirely absent. A video projection of Lopes in the background set remembrance and admiration to their beloved friend.

A few years after their double debut, Watkins and Thomas appeared in R U the Girl, a nine-episode television programme based on the concept of singers winning a chance to sing alongside TLC themselves in a new single. Tiffany “O so Krispie” Baker was awarded the top prize in the competition, contributing and performing on TLC’s “I Bet”. The duo continued to tour extensively, way into the 2010s. Their musical strength and creation widely reverberated, 20 years after their debut release. TLC was honoured with Outstanding Contribution to Music at the 17th MOBO Awards and Legend Award at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards Japan.

In 2017, their eponymous and crowdfunded fifth album “TLC,” spearheaded by their nostalgic single “Way Back,” featuring the famed and 90s rap-maker Snoop Dog. In 2022, the group was inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.

VH1 ranked TLC as the greatest female group, placing them at number 12 on the list of 100 Greatest Women in Music. Billboard magazine ranked TLC as one of the greatest musical trios, as well as the seventh-most successful act of the 1990s. The group have been rewarded with a myriad of accolades, with several being four career Grammy Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, and five Soul Train Music Awards.

TLC’s Watkins and Thomas continue to excite and truly enamor audiences to this very day. Junction 1 are thrilled and greatly anticipates an amazing performance. TLC are one of the most acknowledged groups in the field of R&B and rap music. Their pioneering flows will be heard this summer, uplifting the energy and electricity of Junction 1’s proud musical and cultural space. Find tickets here to be part of the experience.

TLC in Glasgow