Exclusive: TLC's Chilli Reflects On CrazySexyCool Album's 20th Anniversary
Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage
Some albums are just classics that live on forever as staples in their genre. One such album has to be the legendary TLC's CrazySexyCool. The album laced with sexy and sultry ballads and even some up-tempo flava is still regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. CrazySexyCool, written and produced by the likes of Babyface, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and more displayed a relatable identity for fans as Left Eye represented the Crazy, Chilli the Sexy, and T-Boz the Cool. As the multi-diamond album turns 20, it's only right to reflect on the Atlanta trio's successful sophomore project.
The album peaked at three on the Billboard 200 chart and spent over two years on the Billboard album charts. The album was certified Diamond by the RIAA making TLC the first girl group in history to be awarded diamond status. To date, CrazySexyCool has sold over 23 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by an American girl group, and the second best selling album worldwide behind the Spices Girls' Spice. All four singles from the album reached the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100, two of them reaching number one.
The lead single "Creep" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, and was one of the biggest singles of 1995, coming in at number three in Billboard Year End Hot 100 Singles of 1995. It also reached number one on the Hot R&B and Hip Hop Songs Chart. The third single, "Waterfalls", became TLC's most successful song, spending seven weeks at number one. It was also the second-biggest single of 1995 according to Billboard, giving TLC two songs in the Top 3 of the 1995 Billboard Year-End chart.
“Waterfalls,” stands as one of the greatest songs of all time as TLC used R&B soul, Hip-Hop, and an enormous music video budget to bring light to societal issues like HIV/AIDS, and the country's issue with inner-city drug problems. The album also won two of the six Grammy Awards it was nominated for at the 1996 Grammy Awards. This classic album was undeniably a smooth, seductive collection of contemporary soul. The album is timeless.
Two decades later CrazySexyCool remains just as relevant, even bringing in a new generation of fans with the VH1 produced Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story biopic.
To celebrate 20 years of CrazySexyCool, AllHipHop caught up with TLC's Chilli to discuss the making of the album, its impact, TLC's legacy and more!
AHH: We are celebrating the CrazySexyCool album's 20th anniversary. Talk about the making of that album; I know there were some big name producers involved such as Babyface, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri and more.
Chilli: We used the same producers that we always worked with. We worked with Dallas, Babyface, and Jermaine on the first and second album the only thing we had new was Organized Noize. Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest did the interludes. People don't do interludes anymore and I don't know why they don't; they are so fun. It was a really fun album to make. This is a time where we weren't always in the studio together; sometimes we went in one by one because everyone was so busy. I spent so much time recording with Babyface and it was a great album to make.
AHH: The album went Diamond, and TLC was the first group to achieve that success, talk about that feeling.
Chilli: It's very exciting; it was a dream come true. It's hard to reach a lot of people especially that amount of people. We love the fact that people love us because we are being who we are. We aren't acting. We are very serious about the messages we put out. The girl power thing is really who we are. I think fans loved that we are so relatable; we are like your girlfriends or your sisters. When people can relate they understand and connect better.
AHH: Every single reached the top 100 Billboard Countdown, and the album has been referred to on many lists as one of the greatest albums of all time. Does it feel surreal now? Did it feel surreal back then?
Chilli: Back then It was times when it didn't seem real, but we came out during a time when people really bought albums; it was no downloading. The competition was steep. We never looked at girl groups as competition; we looked at Boyz II Men and Jodeci. We wanted to hit numbers like M.C. Hammer because he was selling like crazy. The fact that we were able to compete with those guys is when we really got excited.
AHH: The lead single was "Creep". Was that a unanimous decision to make it the lead single?
Chilli: A lot of times when you have your main producer that takes lead in your project they usually have the first single. But we loved all of our singles so we didn't care what was released first. It was one of those albums where we liked every song. With CrazySexyCool the stars were really aligned for us because that was really a great album.
AHH: People always say they miss the 90s and the era that was CrazySexyCool. When I think of this album I think of smooth seductive vocals, contemporary soul, great songs, voluptuous beats, great song writing.... how would you define the album and the era?
Chilli: I would define it like the title; our personalities.... the music.... that whole era for us was Crazy Sexy Cool Period.
AHH: What do you miss about 90s R&B?
Chilli: We were more than R&B we were Hip-Hop and Pop as well. As far as R&B is concerned now I feel what's missing is the lyrical content. You have people that are singing but its missing the lyrical content and the stories. When I think of Jodeci's albums like Forever My Lady we don't have records like that anymore. And Boyz II Men songs like "End of the Road" or "Bended Knee" like really; songs that people want to hear at their wedding. Songs that could be you and your boo's record. Now you're just talking about beating it up. What the hell are you supposed to be beating up? I know you are not talking about my vagina because now you aren't going to get it (chuckles). There's no more fore-play, no more courting, no dating. It's straight to the bed.
AHH: How did R&B go from "I'll Make Love To You" to pull your panties to the side?
Chilli: It's okay with some songs like that but not when superstars make songs like that all the time when they have the power and ability to do more. It's disappointing especially from seasoned artists or a whole album. It's not cool; it's no more variety. It was so much variety in the '90s.
AHH: "Waterfalls" was the most successful track to date from the album. Everyone remembers where they were when the video came out. The video, the message, The Grammy nominations, TLC winning two of those Grammy nominations. How did it feel from having the vision of the record and the video to it coming to fruition and the success that followed?
Chilli: Left Eye was up there all the time so we made her go sell it to them with what we wanted it to look like and what we thought it would cost. Radio wasn't jumping on the record they didn't know what we were talking about. The video brought it to life. Videos then told the story. Radio was still on "Creep" because they had seen the video. Once we teamed up with F. Gary Gray to bring our vision to life, it was over at that point. The rest was history.
AHH: What is a crazy behind the scenes moment from the CrazySexyCool album?
Chilli: The infamous Vibe Cover. Vibe set us up but we totally fell for the ookie doke . Lisa had burned the house and everything and at the video shoot we would take whatever a stylist would bring rip it up and make it a TLC outfit. There were police uniforms and firemen suits. When I saw the firemen suits I was the one like we have to wear these. I wasn't thinking about what had just happened and the fact that my sister is on probation and if she does anything wrong she can go to jail. They weren't thinking either they were like yeah this is dope . And I'm sure Vibe was like we are going to have the cover of life. It was so innocent we just saw fashion and the picture they chose with Lisa with her lip to the side like "and what" and a nonchalant attitude of the situation. When it came out the judge called immediately. We got in a little bit of trouble (chuckles) but it's water under the bridge. We weren't trying to be some smart asses and not take the situation seriously, but that's what it appeared to be (from the shoot).
AHH: Is there anything you would like to leave with your fans?
Chilli: I just really want to thank them for just loving TLC and embracing the outside of the box way we think and how we do everything. They were riding with us the whole time. Most are grown now and have kids and have introduced our music to their kids and that means the world to me. We always stuck together. We are real sisters that love each other, but we never abandoned each other and our fans never abandoned us.