TLC was 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-singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and singer Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas it 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 its debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, which sold four million copies worldwide. The group's second studio album, CrazySexyCool, went on to be certified diamond by the RIAA, and eventually sold 22 million copies worldwide. TLC released four multiplatinum studio albums before going on hiatus due to the death of Lopes in Honduras in 2002.
Billboard magazine ranked the group as one of the greatest musical trios. Between 1992 and 2003 the band accumulated ten top ten singles, four number one singles, four multiplatinum albums, and four Grammy Awards. At the end of 1999, the band 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. With over 50 million albums sold, they are the top selling American female group of all time.
The first TLC album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, was released in February 1992 and 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 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 as each girl wore wrapped condoms on their clothing.
CrazySexyCool was released in early 1994 and 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" 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".
FanMail was another success for TLC, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart and selling over 5 million copies in the U.S. The album featured the number-one hits "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty". 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 "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".
Before the recording of their fourth album, 3D, there was a dispute between Lopes on one side and Watkins and Thomas on the other. Lopes originally wanted to withdraw from the group and pursued a solo career as she recorded her first album Supernova. 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.
After Lopes' death, it was decided that they would complete the remainder of their fourth album and 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. 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
In June 2005, Now and Forever: The Hits was quietly released in the United States; the album debuted at number 53 with 20,000 copies sold. In May 2007, Now and Forever: The Video Hits was released in the United States, after over four years of delayed release dates. In August 2007, a new greatest hits album was released in the UK called Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC.