Groundbreaking pioneering trendsetters, an apt description for TLC, the best-selling female group in music history who have sold over 27 million and 9 million singles worldwide in less than a decade and impacted popular culture through music, style and fashion.
Ever since the 1993 release of "Oooooh... On The TLC Tip," their quadruple platinum debut album, TLC has been raising the musical temperature with each successive project. The Atlanta-based trio's first album, an exciting blend of rap, hip-hop and R&B, spawned three Top 10 hit singles, with the memorable "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" leading the pack, followed by "Baby Baby Baby" and "What About Your Friends."
The group's 1994 set "CrazySexyCool" provided Left Eye, T-Boz and Chilli with their unprecedented breakthrough into global fame and recognition. With eleven million sales, the album achieved platinum or gold status in eighteen countries including the U.K., Japan, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and Hong Kong, earning the group its first Grammy Award for "Best R&B Album." The chart-topping double platinum single "Creep" nabbed the 1996 Grammy Award for "Best Performance By A Group Or Duo" while the second single, "Red Light Special" was a Top 5 platinum single. However, it was the lyrically thought-provoking "Waterfalls," the third cut released as a single from "CrazySexyCool" that propelled TLC to a new level of success: the groundbreaking accompanying video won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1996 including "Best Video Of The Year," "Best R&B Video," "Best Group Video" and "Viewer's Choice" honors and two Soul Train Music Awards (for Best R&B/Soul Or Rap Music Video and Best R&B/Soul Single). In the wake of the album's amazing chart run, TLC was named "Artist Of The Year" by Billboard magazine, and a fourth single, "Diggin' On You" was a Top 5 platinum best-seller.
After touring nationwide, the multi-talented trio - known for supporting a number of important social causes including raising funds in the fight against sickle cell anemia and promoting safe sex (particularly among teens) - began working on their third album FANMAIL with an array of top notch producers including Dallas Austin (who had been involved with both previous albums), Babyface and Jermaine Dupri. Back in 1999, prior to the release of FANMAIL. Left Eye noted, "Some groups have tried to take off from where we left off in 1994 with "CrazySexyCool." We've
heard about record companies who have tried to put together groups like us but no one can do it." Proving the point, the much-anticipated CD sold over six million copies and was certified gold or platinum in twenty-one countries, garnering TLC another Grammy Award for "Best R&B Album." The biggest single to emerge from the critically-acclaimed set was "No Scrubs," a two-time Grammy Award winner (for "Best R&B Song" and "Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group") and double platinum, chart-topping hit. The No. 1 follow-up single "Unpretty" continued the momentum and by 2000, TLC had received another MTV Video Music Award, two Soul Train Music Awards, one American Music Award, two Lady Of Soul Awards and the much-treasured Lady Of Soul Aretha Franklin Award as Entertainer(s) Of The Year.
Inspired by the constant support of their vast global fan base, TLC embarked on recording their fourth album, 3D, in late 2001. Recording sessions continued through 2002 until tragedy struck in April when Left Eye, vacationing in Honduras (her favorite place to escape the pressures of superstardom and a life constantly in the public spotlight) was involved in a car accident that resulted in her untimely passing. Both T-Boz and Chilli vowed to keep working on the new album, announcing a scholarship fund in Lisa's honor at MTV's Video Music Awards in the summer of 2002.
T-Boz and Chilli felt it was important to go ahead with the album they had started working on with Lisa, who was responsible for the title and blueprinted the visuals for 3D. Left Eye, whose undeniable creative contribution to the group was immeasurable, contributed as a collaborating writer to six of the key cuts on 3D including "Girl Talk," the first single which features a no-holds-barred rap by the much-missed Lopes. Says Chilli: "We knew that Lisa would have wanted us to finish the album. Really, there was no other option or decision to make. Tionne and I knew we had to do this for her because people will forever remember Lisa through us and our music." Adds T-Boz, "It wasn't easy for the two of us because we still had to do half the record and when we were in the studio, sometimes it was very hard. But the hardest thing has been doing the videos without her..."
The release of 3D is not only a reminder of the lasting creative contribution Left Eye made but an opportunity for T-Boz and Chilli to continue to blaze new trails in music and style. The album is filled with tracks that show TLC once again raising the musical bar for themselves. Chilli mentions "Over Me," a song "based on a personal experience" she wrote with producer Rodney Jerkins; "Give It To Me While It's Hot," which she says, "is a classic Organized Noize
track"; and "Hey Hey Hey," another Jerkins-produced cut "which is basically saying â€˜if you want to be with me, you gotta get rid of all the other girls!"
Summing up her feelings about the making of 3D, T-Boz says, "I don't think we've ever worked so hard in our lives but we wanted Lisa to be proud of what we did." And Chilli adds, "It has been a real emotional time for me and Tionne. We wanted to do find creative ways to include Lisa in all the ways we could, to do the best we could to hang in and deliver all this music, knowing that Lisa would be smiling down on us."
Contributed by David Nathan