New Faces: TLC

Funky female trio mixes street-level feminism with infectious dance beats

TLC, backstage at KMEL, Summer Jam 1992, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View California
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
TLC backstage at KMEL 106 Summer Jam 1992 at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View California.
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'When we were first recording, I was wearing a bag on my head," says TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, "but I wanted something new. I saw a condom and a safety pin next to it, and I thought: 'Yo! Pin a condom on your clothes! That would be live!'"

As the funky female trio's hit "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" flies up the pop charts, their signature fashion statement sounds like just one more lucky stroke in young careers blessed by good fortune and good connections. Left Eye, 20, and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, 21 (Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, 21, joined later), were singing together in Atlanta when a friend introduced them to dance diva Pebbles, who signed on as the group's manager. Pebbles just happens to be married to superstar R&B producer L.A. Reid, who also runs (along with partner Babyface) LaFace Records. With that kind of firepower behind it, the group was joined in the studio by ace producers Dallas Austin (Boyz II Men) and Marley Marl (L.L. Cool J).

The resultant album, Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip, is a New Jill Swing gem, a blend of infectious dance beats and cutting raps espousing safe sex and an independent, street-level feminism. Even the rappers' baggy, splashy stage clothing reflects their offstage lives. "This is our style anyway," says Left Eye. "When we just hang around, our pants are always sagging."

This story is from the May 28th, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 631: May 28, 1992