The First Time I Heard…TLC
By Toya Haynes
Confession: I was a little late to jump on the TLC bandwagon. I don’t mean I-wasn’t –a-fan-until-“No Scrubs”-came-out late because that would just be criminal. I mean I wasn’t quite ready for the in your face feminism and sexual expression in loud and living color that TLC burst onto the scene with in 1992. When their video for “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” first aired on MTV, I honestly thought they looked like cartoons with condoms. I was NOT ready.
But something changed for me around the time their second single, “Baby, Baby, Baby” dropped. The video showed them frolicking around as college students at an HBCU in hair rollers and pajamas, hoodies and Cross Colour jeans. As a college freshman that year myself, it was the first time that I saw them as relatable, something that has always been a part of TLC’s charm. As where I may not have connected with songs like “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, by the time “Baby, Baby, Baby” and “What About Your Friends” came out, I was on the bandwagon with everyone else. I was wearing oversized hoodies and Cross Colors jeans, had T-Boz’s haircut, and was dancing around obnoxiously pointing at people.
I remember “Hat 2 Da Back” being a defining moment for me. That was the video when we all discovered that under those baggy tomboyish clothes, that these were some stunningly beautiful women. And Chili? Chili had guns! I then realized something that would make this group endearing to me until the end of time: although their career was riddled with contractual and financial problems, TLC was TLC on their terms. They were just as much true to themselves with baggy clothes as they were in in midriffs and liquid latex pants. They were just as true to themselves bragging about their right to their sexual exploits (“Red Light Special”) as they were talking about not feeling good enough when it came to body image (“Unpretty”). TLC were unapologetically flawed and unapologetically powerful. They were superstars yet they were just like us. Whether you were crazy, sexy, cool, or a combination of the three, you most likely saw a bit of yourself and your girlfriends in each of their personalities. For this reason along with their chart topping hits and record-breaking accomplishments, TLC remains one of the most important and iconic pop groups of all time.
Although they accomplished so much, it pains me to think about how TLC’s career was cut so short after the devastating loss of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. I wonder what issues they would’ve tackled had they had the chance to continue through 2002. Luckily the remaining members Chili & T-Boz are back out on the road this year! They are currently touring with Nelly and New Kids on the Block and are gearing up to give their fans one last album. I can’t wait to see what this last album holds for them. In the meantime, here’s a list of my five favorite TLC songs of all time.
My Top 5 TLC Songs of All Time
For more of my favorite TLC songs, check out this playlist on Spotify.