2013 marked the landmark anniversaries of many historical and ground breaking musical artists.  Some of them made triumphant returns to the charts.  Some have made special appearances on television and in concert.  Others released new music, and some have re-released and re-packaged classic music.  Some even celebrated their 20 years in the industry on the small screen, generating the same buzz that they created when they were in the prime of their careers.   Of course this new school nostalgia is needed to promote the artists’ projects, but it also reminds us of the great legacy of music that made us celebrate and love them in the first place. 

 Such is so with the iconic cassette that defined an era and cemented the biggest and best-selling honors of T-Boz (Tionne Watkins), Left Eye (Lisa Lopes) and Chilli (Rozonda Thomas), collectively and better known as TLC.   The group’s sophomore album CrazySexyCool, now shares its title with the VH-1 biopic, based on the dynamic, tumultuous, and extremely successful career of the ladies themselves. The story career and friendship of TLC is the stuff that movies are made of, except that it is all true. 

But what is more fascinating about their story is the inexplicable musical soundtrack that corresponds with their all too compelling story.  Each song and each project gave an introspective look on life, love, relationships, and social consciousness.  These women were more than caricatures as some gave them the identity (based on the animated personalities they demonstrated on their debut album Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip); they were real people who lived and experienced what they sang.  In 1994, they released their game changing and most critically acclaimed album to date, CrazySexyCool which defined who they were, and inspired many other women to follow suit.  Despite gender, you would have to be deaf if this is not one of your favorite cd or cassettes of all time.  This project has proven to be a certified, bonafide music changing masterpiece.

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TLC has always been a group whose success was never solely based on the formulaic concepts of their handlers.  Producers and songwriters may have assisted them with music and material, but when it came to the overall creative presentation of TLC, that responsibility mainly lied in the hands of T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli.  The ladies were the primary consultants for their image and album concepts (with the majority of the contribution was from Lopes).   We get an idea of things to come just the album’s slow burning, bombastic opening, “Intro-lude” which features a verse from Phife Dawg, (a member of veteran hip group A Tribe Called Quest).  The intro has a well-known line that ironically pays a tribute to another famous R&B/pop girl group member, Dawn Robinson.  Phife opens the track with “My man Al B. Sure is in effect mode.  Used to have a crush on Dawn from En Vogue.”  He then recites verses acknowledging the stars of the project, the lovely T-Boz (cool) “with the ill haircut”, Chilli (sexy) “sitting pretty in her hot pink suit” and Left Eye (crazy) the dime piece who he heard was a hood.”

The stage is then set for the rest of the project.  We hear the sounds of a whole new group.  The giddy, rowdy, playful condom and Band-Aid laden girls were now beautiful, mature and assertive artists and women; and they had the sound to prove it.  Their debut album featured more hip hop oriented music.  Their roles in the group were well defined.  T-Boz was the funk deliverer, with her husky rasp, Left Eye was the consummate rapper with her quirky rap style, and Chilli was the “straight up R&B”, with her smooth and melodic vocals.  Although they still possessed all of the sass and attitude that made them go platinum in 1992, the sequencing were different on this project.   Whereas Left Eye’s raps were featured on all but one of the tracks on the group’s debut album, the majority of the material for their sophomore effort were reserved for T-Boz’s and Chilli’s vocals, as the material was less hip-hop based and more R&B and funk infused.  The album’s content was in more in line with the concept and title.  The albums’ content focused on the joys and pains of relationships, (both physical and emotional), friendships, love, and social awareness.  The first major and successful single, “Creep” was a complete departure of the TLC sound.  With a looping, repetitive trumpet lick, dark synths, and smoky, sexy lead vocals from T-Boz, the song with its seductive message told the story of a woman who copied her man’s infidelity to quench her need for affection.  “Creep” became the third biggest song of the year, and won a Grammy Award for Best R&B song of the year.

The hits didn’t stop there.  They followed up the side-chick anthem with the scintillating Babyface penned “Red Light Special.”  The beautiful serenade is a how to guide on how to win the affections of a real woman “who knows just what she wants, and knows just who she is.”  The slow burn groove provides the perfect backdrop for the seamless blending of T-Boz and Chilli’s harmonies and spot-on leads and delivery.  The single was certified gold and pushed sales of the album.  The girls were riding high but nothing could probably prepare them for the success of the monster hit Waterfalls.  The songs timeless message coupled with its state of the art video not only kept this song in heavy rotation, but it became the biggest single from the album, and it garnered many awards for the group.

Aside from the tape’s singles, (the sweet and romantic Diggin’ on You served as the final single) CrazySexyCool is chocked full of great music from beginning to end.  The bass heavy and Jermaine Dupri produced Kick Your Game was a radio favorite and the sexy tale chronicles proceedings of a one night stand.  Chilli’s vocals are impressive on this song, and it is the first on the project that showcases her growth as a singer.  Throughout the duration of the cd, we hear an exquisite cover of Prince’s If I Was Your Girlfriend.  T-Boz channels her inner Prince and does the purple one proud.  We hear some of the groups’ best singing to date on “Let’s Do it Again”.  They sing so well on this one that you have to say, oh yes!

Chilli turns in a salaciously sexy solo with “Take our Time”, with strong and noticeably trained vocals (that were not as polished as they are here than they were on the first album.)  The tape closes with the very poignant and creative “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, featuring then label mate, Andre 3000 from Outkast.  This “don’t point the finger” gem and others on the album sound so fresh that it seems as if this CrazySexyCool was recorded in 2004 instead of 1994.  CrazySexyCool is as relevant and hot as it was back in the day.  TLC was ahead of their time and a lot more talented than what people gave them credit for.  Their talent, friendship and chemistry are what made them the most successful and biggest girl group of all time.  Left Eye’s tragic death stopped us from seeing how their journey together could have ended, but their work has already has solidified them as legends that have completely changed the game, which is what crazysexycool women are supposed to do