The last 25 years have been difficult for TLC. The band first emerged in 1992 with Ooooooohhh… On The TLC Tip, a playful mix of funk, rap, and RB which catapulted them to global stardom. In the years that followed, they experienced bankruptcy, various public controversies and, of course, the tragic and disturbingly public death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Yet, they still established themselves as one of the most successful bands in history – to date, they are estimated to have sold 65 million albums worldwide.
This untouchable musical legacy is set to continue this year, with a new album crowd-funded by a total of over 4,000 investors on Kickstarter. The two remaining members, T-Boz and Chilli, initially requested $150,000 but raised a total of $430,000 to support the as-yet-untitled album (which fans are being asked to name) due for release later this year.
The first sample of this new era came last month with the release of “Way Back,” a sunny, laid-back debut single which features hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg. Not only is it a reward for loyal fans, it’s an opportunity for the band to create the final chapter of their turbulent journey on their own terms. Sure, we’ve all likely screamed “No Scrubs” at overconfident guys in the club and created pajama-clad recreations of the iconic “Creep” video, but in celebration of their new release, here are some stone-cold classics you might not have heard yet.
“Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes”
Named after a line from MacBeth and featuring the inimitable André 3000, Crazysexycool’s closing track is a smooth, guitar-driven social commentary. Lifted from an album packed with hits, the song is an underrated classic which deals with themes of violence and corruption; Lopes’s closing rap is an inarguable highlight, creating the final chapter of one of the most iconic albums in musical history.
A left-field, upbeat offering from the band’s 2002 album 3-D, “Dirty Dirty” features hectic production by Timbaland, as well as a guest verse by Missy Elliott. Released just seven months after the tragic passing of Left Eye, the LP is largely more upbeat than its predecessors but failed to reach the same dizzying sales. Still, this cut not only stands out as an example of Timbaland in his heyday, it’s also one of the more club-ready tracks in an expansive, diverse discography.
“Somethin’ You Wanna Know”
Taken from their debut album Ooooooohhh… On The TLC Tip, this slow jam displays a rare moment of tenderness. Its themes are increasingly relevant in the age of technology – it’s about communication in relationships and the importance of discussion as opposed to blind belief in unsubstantiated rumors. Still, no matter how much you read into the lyrics, this track stands alone as an RB classic.
“If They Knew”
Relationships are a constant source of interest for TLC; whether it’s the good, bad, or ugly, the group sings about love on a regular basis. “If They Knew” is slightly different. A tale of infidelity told from both sides; the track is punctuated by stuttering beats and largely unapologetic lyrics which more than live up to the band’s ‘bad girl’ reputation.
“Let’s Just Do It”
Although not technically a TLC track, this cut – lifted from Left Eye’s second posthumous album Eye Legacy – does feature Chilli and T-Boz on guest vocals, as well as another appearance by Missy Elliott. Funky, futuristic, and irresistibly fresh, the glitchy production blends seamlessly with Left Eye’s trademark poetic flow to create an essential entry on this list.
“Don’t Pull Out On Me Yet”
This ode to good, long sex sessions is one of the final tracks on 1999’s FanMail, and it doesn’t get the love it deserves. Despite the absence of a Left Eye rap, the group drops the tempo for a slice of seduction. This is more than worthy of inclusion on any slow jam playlist. Better still, the title stays on brand by providing yet another subtle nod to safe sex.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend”
TLC covers Prince – what more could you ask for? Released as part of the band’s breakout album Crazysexycool, this rendition of the 1987 funk classic is one of the record’s most underrated highlights. It’s also subtly subversive; the women stick to the original gender markers, adding a feminist twist to a stone-cold classic.
Although leaked in 2002, “It’s Alright” was actually recorded in 1998 and slated to be released as the first single from Fan Mail. Things changed, and “No Scrubs” was eventually chosen instead – a decision which makes sense, considering it remains one of their most iconic tracks to date. Still, “It’s Alright” is a brief yet catchy banger and worth a listen; it’s a light-hearted tribute to the importance of having fun in a world that can often seem destructive and chaotic. Needless to say, it still sounds as fresh and relevant as ever.
“Give It To Me While It’s Hot”
This uptempo sex jam rounds off 3D – which arguably remains the most underrated of the band’s albums to date. As the title suggests, this track is dedicated to the kind of fiery passion that needs to be grabbed without distraction. Smooth, funky, and forward-thinking in terms of its production, the song is an example of T-Boz and Chilli at their best. More generally, it’s worth digging deep into the album – even the lead single, “Girl Talk” never truly gained the recognition it deserved.
“I’m Good At Being Bad”
Perhaps the most underrated song of TLC’s career, “I’m Good At Being Bad” was released as a promotional single, but ultimately upstaged by commercial behemoth “No Scrubs.” Initially inspired by Janet Jackson’s “What About,” the women lay down exactly what they expect from men, sing about masturbation, and generally solidify their untouchable reputation as three of the baddest bitches in musical history.