Classics: TLC – Creep (LaFace Records)
Not to be missed with Radiohead‘s cut of the likes. ‘Creep’ is the first single from the TLC’s iconic ‘CrazySexyCool’ album. Written by producer Dallas Austin from a reputedly woman’s perspective, its lyrics met the opposition of Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes. With the latter thinkin’ of eventually comin’ up with black tape over her mouth on its accompanying music video. ‘Creep’, reputedly based on Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins‘s experience with infidelity, depicting the story of a woman aware of her boyfriend’s behaviour. Who, in turn, cheats on him in an effort to appease her need for affection. Lopes soon after adding a rap verse on the remixes which warns listeners of safe sex issues.
On a New Jack Swingin’ mood, Dallas Austin eventually built ‘Creep’ on two samples. One from Slick Rick‘s ‘Hey Young World’. And the other from Shinehead‘s ‘Who’s The Cap Fits’. Thus turning ‘Creep’ into what would be TLC‘s first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1994.
What you see is not always what you get. Take TLC for instance. They stand as the best-selling American girl group of all time with 65 million records sold worldwide. With ‘CrazySexyCool’ remaining the only album by a female singing group to hard received the RIAA diamond award indicating sales of 10,000,000 copies. But however everything looked bright at first sight, their story happened to be more of a long and winding road than a fairy tale at the end.
It all began by the beginning as a matter of fact. This when an Atlanta-based teenage girl by the likes of Crystal Jones came up with a concept for a girl group that would be the answer to say Bell, Biv & DeVoe. She put out a call for two more girls to join her. Thus meeting interest by the likes of Tionne Watkins on one hand. But also rapper Lisa Lopes who just relocated in the city from her native Philadelphia. With the latter quickly agreeing on the fact that Jones should be leaving the group before signing with their management company. Rozonda Thomas officially joinin’ Watkins and Lopes a few weeks later. Then TLC signing with LaFace Records soon after.
From then, the girls went into the studio. With L.A. and Babyface, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and Marley Marl producing their first album. ‘Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip’ seeing the light in February 1992. Its title coming from the last line of Lopes (Left Eye)’s rap on ‘Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg’. This in addition to extra gems such as ‘Baby-Baby-Baby’, ‘What About Your Friends’ and ‘Hat 2 Da Back’.
The girls pretty much made the sensation with their debut-album selling more than 6 million copies worldwide. A success which couldn’t hide unceasing problems which the girls most likely encountered due to contractual things. With their management and/or record label. The members of TLC ironically filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jul. 03, 1995. Eventually finding themselves in a position when the more successful their ‘CrazySexyCool’ album became, the more they were in debt.
In addition to this, managers, lawyers, producers and taxes had to be paid. Thus leaving each member of the group at the end with less than $50,000 a year after having sold millions upon millions of albums.
Then if ever this wasn’t already enough, there also happened to be the turbulent relationship which Lopes had. This with her then companion, the Atlanta Falcons American football player, Andre Rison. Itself resulting in more and more fights between the two. With Lopes eventually indicted on charges of first-degree arson. Then sentenced to five years of probation and a $10,000 fine after she’d set Rison‘s flat on fire. This in addition to facing alcoholism since the age of 15.
Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, Chucky Thompson and Organized Noize… As many names who added their voices to those of Dallas Austin, Babyface and Jermaine Dupri in the production of TLC‘s second album ‘CrazySexyCool’. The latter seeing the light in November 1994 to critical acclaim. With its four singles reachin’ the top five on the Billboard Hot 100. In other words, ‘Creep’, ‘Red Light Special’ and ‘Diggin’ On You’. Not to mention ‘Waterfalls’ which became TLC‘s biggest hit with its socially conscious lyrics criticizing drug dealing and unsafe sex.
Problems kept on happening though. This time concerning TLC‘s main producer Dallas Austin who, at the time, was dating Rozanda Thomas and helping to raise their son, Tron. Austin asking for more than $4 million and creative control to work on the group’s third album. ‘Fanmail’ eventually saw the light back in February 1999. This with a bunch of extra producers such as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis or Cyptron in adition to Austin with whom they ended up negotiating.
TLC went back under the spotlights for the thir time. ‘Fanmail’ spanning extra classics such as ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Unpretty’. Although Lopes made it more and more clear she was kind of unhappy with her contributions more and more reduced from an album to another. This getting Lopes to collaborate with other artists from time to time. Beginning with Lil’ Kim on ‘Not Tonight’ back in 1996. But also with Donell Rush on the memorable ‘U Know What’s Up’ which would be his biggest success ever three years after. This in addition to Keith Sweat‘s ‘How Do You Like It?’ in 2001.
She then unleashed her first solo album, ‘Supernova’. Unfortunately, it failed to do anything significant with its release finally cancelled Stateside for some reason. Sadly enough, it would be her one and only solo album. Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes tragically dying in a car crash on a sad Apr. 25, 2002. This while filming a documentary in Honduras.
Watkins, Thomas and producer Dallas Austin completed the remainder of ‘3D’, the group’s fourth album. With extra producers such as Missy Elliott, Rodney Jerkins, The Neptunes, Raphael Saadiq and Timbaland completing the line-up. And Lopes appearing on two tracks which she’d completed before her passing. ‘3D’ seeing the light 6 months after. Thus bringin’ cuts such ‘Girl Talk’, ‘Hands Up’ and ‘Damaged’ to the forefront.
Metting positive reviews, selling two million copies Stateside and earning TLC two Grammy Award nominations, ‘3D”s success happened to be far from the ones of its predecessors though.
TLC (Watkins and Thomas) never replaced Lopes. They released a fifth (and said to be their final) album by the end of June 2017 by the likes of… ‘TLC’. With its first single – ‘Way Back’ – featuring Snoop Dogg with production work courtesy of Dernst Emile II aka D’Mile.