THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Finding the proper way to say goodbye.
TLC may not have gone chasing waterfalls, but rough waters certainly found the hip-hop girl group over the years.
Though Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas were the biggest-selling female group of the 1990s and had a string of chart-topping, culture-changing hits including “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” they also had to file for bankruptcy. Then, in 2002, Left Eye died in a car accident while she was vacationing in Honduras and the group’s entire existence was thrown into question. Though Chilli and T-Boz managed to cobble together the “3D” album in 2002 after Left Eye’s death, the group has been stuck ever since.
Now with the release of “TLC” (852 Musiq), their first album in 15 years, TLC is set to move forward again.
“TLC,” which Chilli and T-Boz say will be the group’s final album, was financed by a Kickstarter campaign launched in 2015 that raised $430,000 so that the duo could have full control and release it themselves.
The resulting album definitely feels like a classic TLC album. “Way Back” has a throwback groove that could have come from the group’s heyday, with T-Boz and Chilli’s harmonies sounding like they did circa “CrazySexyCool” (1994) and Snoop Dogg stepping into the rap break where Left Eye would have come in. The upbeat “It’s Sunny” brings together bits of the Bobby Hebb classic “Sunny” and the horns from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” to show off some positivity, while “Perfect Girls” taps into the same esteem-building vibe of “Unpretty.”
However, it’s the protest anthem “American Gold” that shows how much TLC’s point of view has been missing from hip-hop — empathetic and strong, offering advice without being preachy — and why it’s so good to have it back. “I lost some friends, some friends that I didn’t want to,” they sing. “I’ve been in and out of the fire battling for you.”