How TLC Music Videos Defined Their Time

Rozonda ’Chilli’ Thomas, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and Tione ‘T-Boz’ Watkins of TLC

From their innovative style, to their distinctive use of their voices meshed into the sounds of Hip-Hop and R&B, girl group TLC has made a major mark with their position in music.

Rozanda ‘Chilli’ Thomas, Tione ‘T-Boz’ Watkins and Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, who we remember for her creative impact, activism and outspoken intelligence, have been crowned the best-selling American girl group of all time, with over 85 million records sold, four Grammy wins and nine no.1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

With it being almost 15 years, in less than a month since TLC first graced our screens in their debut music video for their debut single, ‘Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,’ we’re recapping some of the most influential, creative and 90s-birthed music videos of TLC’s iconic, career.

“What’s About Your Friends” (1992)

 

As the third single from their debut studio album, Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip, T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye were already making their mark as some of the most innovative and creative artists, within the visual aspects of music. ‘What About Your Friends,’ was a testament to maintaining the loyalty through a friendship through the certainty that sometimes, people change. It showed us the union between the three artists as they began their career, the foundation of being in a group and being more than just that, but also a growing sisterhood. The video itself shines because of the group’s ability to be carefree and colorful, with their tomboy attire, choreography and importance of remaining true to self around people who accept you, just the way you are.

“Baby-Baby-Baby” (1992)

 

TLC set a perfect example of having your follow-up move be as good as the first, in their instance, within their music and how they continued to deliver subliminal messages and relatable girl talk, through their lyrics and videos. As the second single from their debut, ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ gave us the right to feel pride in figuring out what we want in love and how we feel about possibly sharing it with a significant other. We got the visual of a fun and inviting HBCU experience and how convenient they were in the 90s, at the oldest historically black institution Bowie State University, we must mention, as the girls threw a slumber party with some of the other queens on campus. With this video, we started to see a pattern within TLC’s music and how they wanted us to view it, in an inviting way, filled with three different personalities creating timeless music.

“Creep” (1994)

 

Everyone and their first cousin wanted those silk pajamas to even try to pull-off as day-to-day outfits after this iconic and timeless video dropped. Yeah, the message was basically in order to get someone back for infidelity, is to do the exact same thing by messing around with someone else as well, which member Left Eye, obligated to an opinion that it was completely wrong to cheat back and instead of backing out of the song and video, decided it was best to school those who agreed with the song’s concept, on correct morals and how getting revenge, could end up even worse. Also, from the group’s previous advocacy toward safe sex, Lopes felt as though this went against everything they stood for, which pushed her to want to wear black tape over her mouth in protest, of what the lyrics meant. But it was the visual that this no.1 single and Grammy award-winning song, created with its take on fashion during the time of the mid-90s and even was recreated and inspired through current videos and sampled on some of music’s biggest artists records, today.

“Red Light Special” (1995)

 

Growth and the ability to step out of the box is what the group started to go through and executed well, with the second single from their critically acclaimed CrazySexyCool project, which gave us countless gems. This was the group’s departure from their usual clean-cut and visually friendly deliverances from before, as the video gave us a more seductive and sultry side, implying the notion that it’s more than okay, which it is, to embrace passion and your sexuality within your body, feelings and even more convenient through the golden years of R&B, which was the 90s, through love. We know the set-up was basically a brothel holding male pleasers, a few games of strip poker occurred and probably a lot of other Rated-R things, but let’s admire the transition into a broader audience that TLC took with this song and video and how they succeeded. Also, we got a glimpse of young Boris Kodjoe, who never left his prime of fine.

“Waterfalls” (1995)

 

One of the most impactful records of our time, wherein the 90s the HIV/Aids epidemic and violence installed within the then drug trades, were at a high and affecting the black community and youth tremendously. Written by the impeccable Lisa “Left Eye’ Lopes herself, who’s verse was a definite highlight of the track, ‘Waterfalls,’ was part of the beginning of visually stunning videos in a time where technology and digital animation hadn’t reached its full potential. As the group voiced their lyrics throughout the video, in liquidated figures, while the actors in the scenarios of an illegal drug trade gone wrong and a young man contracting HIV/Aids, from being convinced to have unprotected sex, showed them slowly fading away into ghost-like figures or losing parts of their appearance due to the involvement in deadly situations and social issues that deserved the space to be spoken about. Directed by notable filmmaker, F. Gary Gray, the music video itself went on to win four MTV Video Music Awards, earned two Grammy nominations for the record and spent seven consecutive weeks at no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“No Scrubs” (1999)

 

A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly/ He’s also known as a Busta/Always talkin’ bout what he wants/ And just sits on his broke ass.

The Anthem for women fed up with the guys sitting on the passenger side, trying to holla with no type of credentials of their own. Directed by the legendary videographer, Hype Williams and earning a Grammy nom for Record of the Year,’ ‘No Scrubs’ take on a futuristic setting, with the three members showcasing robotic dance moves in the hottest silver, black and red, white and blue space outfits we’ve ever laid eyes on. This video took a stretch on  TLC’s creative side, it was different from their usual get-up, but similar in sync choreography and notable wardrobe. And till this day, we remember not only the record but the video as it gave us, one of the greatest 90s projects in music.

”Unpretty” (1999)

 

The raw beauty of the lyrics and meaning behind them created a video that showcased just that. As the group’s second single, from their Fanmail album and receiving two Grammy nominations and spending three weeks at no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Unpretty,’ which was originally a poem adapted into a song by the likes of T-Boz, was a dedication to all woman who didn’t feel as though they met the standard of what society felt being beautiful, looked like. It taught women to embrace their naturality and see the beauty that’s within because more than likely, that’s what matters most, at the end of the day. The video which shows different scenarios of challenges woman go through within their appearance and surroundings such as, their significant other wanting them to change certain physical characteristics about themselves for their satisfaction, the issue of bulimia and women’s provider and protector position in violence. Although it was one of the last few times we would get to see all three group members in a video together, it was remarkable for the message it delivered and shed light on the true beauty within each member, who never failed to give music lovers, everything they were looking for in video and music.

 

Diamond Jones

Jr. Editor Lifestlye/Entertainment Department

Diamond Jones, 21, is a St.Louis native, born on the west side of Detroit. She is currently a junior, studying Journalism, with a minor in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her writing reaches to audiences everywhere, directing it toward the empowerement and excellence of black people and their accomplishments. She has written for The Daily Egyptian, LoveThisTrackTV, Georgia State’s The Signal and the National Association of Black Journalists, which she is a dedicated member of. She hopes to continue to inspire those through her words and make those who feel underrepresented, see their light.