Release Year: 1994
Before there were the Spice Girls there was TLC. These three sexy ladies hit the scene in the early 90s with their funky clothes and sexual awareness. For their second outing they showed how they matured, were still sexually aware, but also knew what they wanted out of a relationship. The result is an R&B classic filled with hits people still love and sing today. Though the LP isn’t perfect, it’s aged extremely well and remains the essential TLC record.
TLC were never afraid to talk about sex as seen on songs like “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” and “Baby Baby Baby,” but here they did it with style, class, and sensuality. This is first seen on the ultra cool track “Creep.” It’s a mix of R&B, hip hop, and New Jack Swing, but it’s the jazzy horns heard at the beginning that really make the whole thing pop. And the way T-Boz sings “Oh I, Oh I, Oh I-I” is beyond infectious. The song also presents a different perspective on the cheating partner. Rather than getting revenge on her man, she chooses to have an affair herself with no shame. Somehow these girls make cheating sound sexy and sensual. Because of its timelessness, it remains one of their best tracks.
“Kick Your Game” has always been my favorite from the album because it’s so damn smooth. It’s another track that mixes R&B and hip-hop to get its smooth, sleek vibe. The whole groove of it gets you moving to the music. The girls talk about how a guy has to be able to kick his game well in order to take her home. It’s also one of the few times on the album where we get a stellar verse from Left Eye. She is noticeably missing from most of the tracks because at the time of recording she was in rehab for her arson conviction. But this is one of the places where she shines as she has a tight flow and presents clever wordplay. “Diggin on You” is another great song from the trio that has more of a mellow groove that puts you at ease. This one has a simple hook that easily gets lodge in your head. Also, who doesn’t love the image of T-Boz chilling with her Kool-Aid? That whole line makes you think of summer, which isn’t too far off (unless you’re in Chicago).
If you’ve been following the blog for long enough, you know I have little patience for interludes. Unfortunately, they’re all over the place on this album. The record kicks off with “Intro-Lude,” which features a rapper talking about how sexy the girls are. This theme comes back on “CrazySexyCool,” which repeats those words for a short amount of time. It’s so short that it’s useless. The only thing that’s interesting about these tracks is how they feature P.Diddy and Busta Rhymes. Otherwise, they don’t add anything to the album. They’re often boring and try to set up a sexy mood, but the songs themselves are better at doing this.
What I love so much about the album is how the girls aren’t shy with their sexuality. They weren’t the first girl group to talk about sex and love, but they do it so boldly on tracks like “Red Light Special” and “Let’s Do it Again.” They know what they want out of their partner and they’re not afraid of asking for it. They have no shame in it; women are sexual beings and they wanted you to know that. But they also knew the repercussions that can come with sex as they showed on the classic “Waterfalls.” Though the music is cool and groovy with a hint of funk, the song is really bleak. What’s eerie is how relevant the message remains today. This is another place where Left Eye gets to shine and show what a talented rapper she was. Her verse is one of the most memorable of the entire track. It’s a shame she wasn’t featured more on the LP.
One of the underrated tracks has to be “Case of the Fake People.” Right off the bat it has a catchy beat that instantly pulls you in and is another track with an awesome groove. It’s a catchy song about getting rid of all the phonies and fakes from your life. What makes it so good is how it works on a simple grooving beat that repeats throughout the song. TLC kick it old school on “Switch.” It takes a sample of “Mr Big Stuff” by Jean Knight to give the track that vintage Motown vibe. The girls sport so much attitude here as they preach on not giving in to anybody. Left Eye makes an appearance and even has a cool shout out to “Rapper’s Delight” during her verse: “At the hotel motel Holiday Inn/I said if your man starts actin’ up/Switch and take his friend.” The whole thing is cheeky and lots of fun, which fits the mood of the album.
This is the essential TLC album that shows what made the girls so talented. They’re fierce, sexy, and don’t wanna put up with your shit. Though some of the songs are more catered to R&B fans, there are still a lot of well loved classics on the record. 20 years later, the LP sounds as fresh, smooth, and cool as it did when it first came out. The message of strong, independent women not having in shame in their sexuality still rings true. There’s no doubt that T-boz, Chilli, and Left Eye were pioneers in the 90s Girl Power movement that the Spice Girls would later claim.