“Yooo! Mic check, 1 2, 1 2. We in the house. Yeah come on!” I can still actually remember the first time I saw TLC’s music video for “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” on TV. That single is still one of my aunt’s favorite songs. However, I didn’t realize until I got older why she avoided playing it around me back then. TLC emerged on the music scene in 1992, wearing bold, bright colors and over sized pants that often fell to their knees. They were cute, playful, humorous, tomboyish, yet sexy. Girl groups of that time (SWV, Jade, En Vogue, etc) wore fitted dresses and heels. However, TLC climbed to the top of the charts (and stayed there) without showing a stitch of skin. February 25, 2017 marks the 25 year anniversary of the release of their fiery debut album, Ooooh…On The TLC Tip.
T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli took quite a risk tackling issues like safe sex (complete with huge day glow condoms), women’s independence and injustice. They brought all the hot sauce to a newfound Hip Hop and R&B fusion. This was long before the Spice Girls made “girl power” popular. TLC has always had a knack for catchy, cautionary tales. They warned us about our close circles on “What About Your Friends”. They warned women about the gender bias on “His Story”. That song alone proved their intolerance for injustice by dedicating the song to rape victim Tawana Brawley.
The sum of TLC’s parts are greater than the members on their own. Don’t mistake it though. Each member stood out on their own. T-Boz’s cool, raspy toned voice gave the group its unique sound. Left Eye’s militant raps and vibrant personality kept them at the forefront of musical and personal headlines. Chilli smoothed it all out with her southern charm and slick melodies. There haven’t been many girl groups since (if any) that we have cared so deeply to know individually. Songs like “Baby Baby Baby” proved their versatility. They were able to rap and sing seamlessly.
Let’s not forget the interludes. The intro of the CD features a man criticizing their style of dress but admitting how cute they are. Then there’s case of hoe remover (just a sprinkle a day). Then, T-Boz playfully assaults a lying boyfriend, before Left Eye and Chilli join her on the women’s liberation anthem, “Bad By Myself”. The group stood up for what was right and even for what may have been wrong, on their own terms. TLC even turned down an appearance on In Living Color, upset because Keenan Ivory Wayans cited their lyrics as toosexually explicit. All the while they kept trucking along, with their hats to the back and their pants down low. Oooohh….On The TLC Tip also marks the first and only time in TLC history well all three members rap on a song (“Das Da Way We Like Em”)
TLC created a brand of female empowerment that gave confidence to the ladies. However, their strength and beauty caught the eyes and respect of men. T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli did it on their own terms over 25 years ago. They successfully blended a concoction of soul, funk, rap, R&B and unadulterated pop. Now, they are preparing to do it all over again this summer with their upcoming album. As Left Eye would say, “TLC is forever”! The group’s 18 year anniversary of Fanmail was this week as well (on February 23rd).
Check out some of the biggest moments from TLC’s Oooohhh…On The TLC Tip debut below.