They stand alone, a trio of female pioneers who have demonstrated an uncanny ability to bridge the gap between rap, hip-hop, pop and soul. No followers of fashion, but leaders of their generation who push the envelope in music, image and style. Out front, no stranger to controversy, the three young women who compose the best-selling female group in music history are always looking ahead, creating a new level of growth and accomplishment. With the release of their third album FanMail , T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli use the cutting edge approach that has taken TLC to international recognition.
Filled with tough grooves and melodic jams, FanMail is the most personal album the trio has made, reflecting experiences and emotions T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli have faced in the last few years since TLC became a household name on the music scene worldwide. Cut by cut, TLC delivers on this power-packed, hit-filled album, which was executive produced by co-founders Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and super hitmaker Dallas Austin.
Fearlessly, they lay it on the line with "Come On Down" which is the provocative ballad penned by award-winning songwriter Diane Warren especially for the group. The slammin' smash single, "Silly Ho," is about a certain type of female who hasn't gotten her game together. Their first single, "No Scrubs," which was produced by newcomer Shekspere and written by Columbia recording artists Tiny and Candy from Xscape is set to put men with no cars, no jobs and no love in their proper places. While the no-nonsense rap, "My Life" deals with the challenges of being a public personality, the hard-edged "If They Knew" centers around keeping an illicit love affair under raps.
"We're taking it to the next place in terms of production, artwork, concept and image," says Left Eye referring to the group's 1999 release. "We want to be universal with this record. It's for our fans - which is why we called it "FanMail," but we also want to get it to the people who have never even heard of us," says Chilli. With production by Dallas Austin (who worked with TLC on their two previous best-selling albums), Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jermane Dupri and Shekspere - FanMail has all the makings of becoming TLC's most successful project to date. "We all had a lot of input for this album," says T-Boz. "We sat down with Dallas (Austin) and worked on some of the concepts behind the material. For example, "UnPretty" was based on a poem I wrote that he converted into a song. It's a girl's anthem because I know a lot of women who feel insecure. Society can make them feel unpretty and I know it all starts with within."
The groove-flavored title track addresses some of the trials and tribulations as well as the group's way of saying 'thank you' for the support that has kept them at the top of their game for the past seven years. The melodic slow jam "Don't You Pull Out On Me Yet" has a distinctive '70's old school flavor and feel; while the hypnotic "Shout" is all about self-expression, "about letting it all out," as Left Eye explains. Track for track; FanMail is an ambitious musical set that closes the five year gap since the 1994 release of the 10 million-selling album CrazySexyCool. "You'll never see us copy anyone else," says T-Boz. "We're always a little scared when we put out a new record, but we stand firm in what we believe in and we have our own thoughts which come through our music."
Production for FanMail began in early 1998, and in the years since the release of CrazySexyCool, all three women have been busy working on different projects. "Since the last record I've become a mother," says Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas. "And since I don't believe in the 'nanny' thing, I've been spending all my time with my new son. I did some acting on the side. I was on the film "Hav Plenty" and I've been working with an acting coach. I turned down quite a few major roles, because I want it to be right." Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins has also had the opportunity to hit the silver screen through the 1998 film "Belly" and she's also been spending time developing business interests. "I started my own companies, Shee Inc. and Grung Girl Music. I've even done some writing and I plan on doing some production on new and established artists. I've written an inspirational book of poetry and I have a cartoon in development, Oh, and I started a clothes line with Dallas Austin called Grungy Glamorous. So, I've been pretty busy!" Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes has also been maintaining her visibility as the host for MTV's daily show, " The Cut" while developing her Left Eye Production company, working on projects for Sony Music.
The release of FanMail has been much-anticipated by the group's countless admirers the world over. TLC literally burst on the music scene in 1992 with two consecutive Top 3 platinum singles, "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "Baby, Baby, Baby" and the gold single "What About Your Friends." All three tracks helps propel their LaFace debut Oooooooohhh! On The TLC Tip to the top of the charts, selling three million in the process. However, it woth the 1994 follow-up, CrazySexyCool that broke wide open. Working with producers such as Austin, Dupri, Sean "Puffy" Combs and Organized Noize, TLC delivered a record that set them apart from all other female groups of the day. The first single, "Creep" was another platinum smash, staying at the top of the pop and R&B charts for weeks to end. The second single, Babyface's "Red Light Special" was another major hit while the hypnotic "Waterfalls" was platinum-plus that also topped Billboard's pop and R&B charts. The million-dollar high-tech video for the song (which dealt with how a mother copes with her son's drug dealing and how AIDS has become a part of the daily lives of countless people everywhere) garnered no less than four MTV Music Video Awards.
The success of CrazySexyCool (which also featured guest appearances by Busta Rhymes and Phife of A Tribe Called Quest) led to a total of six Grammy nominations and TLC walked away with two Grammy Awards for "best R&B Performance by a Duo/Group" for "Creep" and "Best R&B Album" for the ir sophomore set. Countless other accolades followed including two Lady of Soul Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, three Soul Train Music Awards and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award. In 1995, TLC complete a successful nationwide tour with Boyz II Men. Their many media appearances included the film "House Party 3," and the popular sitcom "Living Single" and "Out All Nigh." Musically, the group contributed the theme to Nickelodeon show "All That," covered The Time's "Get It Up" for the "Poetic Justice" soundtrack. Their charitable work has included launching the 1995 "Believe In Yourself" campaign and working with the "Make-A-Wish" Foundation.
Known for their unique look, TLC has earned a reputation for a down-to-earth attitude and straight ahead approach to a career that has given the group global recognition. "Some groups have tried to take off from where we left off in 1994," says Left Eye. "We've heard about record companies who have tried to put together groups like us, but no one can do it. It's the combination of our personalities and the chemistry between us that makes TLC what it is." Adds T-Boz, "We know that some people think we're the big 'cahunas' because of the success of our records. Sure, there's room for everyone and we're not worried about competition, because we've tried to be trendsetters. But, honestly, with this new album, I would worry if I was one of those other groups out the re. We're back to reclaim what is ours!"
United, according to Chilli, in their goal "to be the biggest female group of all time, to sell as many albums that it will be a few years before any other group can catch up!" The members of TLC are ready to hit the road in '99 and make FanMail another milestone in a career already filled with accomplishments. As Left Eye states with characteristic frankness, "Look, our best challenges are ahead of us. Whatever we've been through personally and progessionally has made us stronger, and has prepared us for what we're doing now." And what TLC is doing now is reaching new heights with FanMail, an album that reinforces their status as unquestionably the world's top female trio.