TLC were one of the biggest-selling female R&B groups of all time, riding a blend of pop, hip-hop, and urban soul to superstardom during the '90s. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas managed to appeal equally to pop and R&B audiences, blending catchy hooks and bouncy funk with a playful, confident attitude. Initially, their image was equal parts style and spirit, bolstered by a flamboyant, outrageous wardrobe. As time passed, they became equally well known for their chaotic personal lives, leaving a trail of headlines that read like a soap opera plot: arson, rehab, bankruptcy, serious illness, high-profile romances, and countless intragroup squabbles. After their star-making second album, CrazySexyCool, TLC fell into disarray, taking over four years to record the follow-up, Fanmail. Even so, they returned more popular than ever, and the hits kept coming. Tragedy struck in early 2002, when Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras.
TLC were formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1991, when Watkins and Lopes decided to split off from another group. In short order, they met Thomas, locally based producer Dallas Austin, and singer, songwriter, and producer Pebbles, who became their manager. They quickly scored a record deal with L.A. Reid and Babyface's new label, LaFace, and in 1992 issued their new jack-styled debut album, Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip. The video for the sexy, aggressive lead single, "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," established their quirky, colorful fashion sense, and true to her nickname, Lopes stirred some attention by wearing a condom over her left eye to promote safe sex. The song became a Top Ten Hot 100 hit, as did its follow-ups, the ballad "Baby-Baby-Baby" (a number two hit) and "What About Your Friends."
Not long before the release of their second album in late 1994, Lisa Lopes was arrested on arson charges. In an alcohol-fueled fit of rage, Lopes vented all the frustrations from her often-stormy relationship with NFL wide receiver Andre Rison, burning his Atlanta mansion to the ground and vandalizing several of his cars. Lopes' lawyers claimed that she had a drinking problem, and while Lopes herself wasn't happy with that defense, she avoided jail time with a sentence of five years' probation; she was also later admitted to an alcohol rehab program. All the publicity certainly didn't hurt CrazySexyCool, which became a blockbuster success, albeit for other reasons. Taking a cue from Salt-n-Pepa's makeover on Very Necessary, CrazySexyCool toned down the boisterousness of their first record in favor of a smoother, more mature presentation; they were still strong and sexual, but now fully adult as well, and were more involved (especially Lopes) in crafting their own material. The slinky lead single, "Creep," became TLC's first number one pop hit, topping the charts for four weeks. It was followed by three more Top Five singles: "Red Light Special," "Waterfalls" (which became their biggest hit ever, spending seven weeks at number one), and "Diggin' on You." TLC were a bona fide phenomenon, and their stylish videos and live performances kept upping the ante for outrageous fashion sense. CrazySexyCool eventually sold over 11 million copies in the U.S. alone, and won a Grammy for Best R&B Album.