Being a music lover, I often get in moods where I get tired of new music and want to re-visit albums of the past. It’s been a while since I’ve listened, but I decided to trot out my very first CD.
My parents bought TLC’s CrazySexyCool (my first CD ever) and my first portable CD player for Christmas in 1994. Clearly, my parents knew that I was an avid TLC fan, based upon the number of times they had to hear Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. At that point in my life, I had only been purchasing cassette tapes or waiting for the local radio stations to play my jam so that I could hit the record button.
CrazySexyCool was TLC’s biggest album and flawlessly defined the relationship between R&B and hip-hop in the 90’s. First of all, the 90’s was a time when artists really put thought and effort in intros and interludes.
CrazySexyCool opens with an “Intro-Lude” by Jermaine Dupri and the late Phife of A Tribe Called Quest that quickly establishes the tone for the album.
The lead single “Creep”, written and produced by Dallas Austin, kicks off the album with a sound that at the time was unique and different from what we had heard from the group previously. Borrowing from an almost unrecognizable sample of Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World”, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. TLC tackled the taboo subject of a woman who “creeps” because her cheating man doesn’t give her any attention or affection. This probably is not the best way to handle a dysfunctional relationship with a cheating boyfriend, but it makes for a great listen. TLC has always asserted independence and female empowerment and boldly challenges the stereotype that comes along with being a woman in this situation.
“Kick Your Game”, produced by Jermaine Dupri, Manuel Seal, and Left Eye allows all three ladies to share the spotlight. The flirty song sets a scene at a nightclub as they wait for the right guy to approach and spit his best game. The lyrics are straightforward and pretty simple, but Left Eye delivers the two best verses as a brother with the worst one-liners possible. She playfully gives men an example of how not to act when approaching a woman.
The third song on the album is “Diggin’ on You”, a ballad written and produced by Babyface. T-Boz takes the lead with her trademark tenor and gives us an R&B groove that fits right in with the sensual theme of the album. A live version was released as the fourth and final single from the album in 1995.
The Dallas Austin track “Case of the Fake People” takes us in another direction and creates a 90’s version of the O’Jay’s “Backstabbers”. Sean “Puffy” Combs makes an appearance in “CrazySexyCool – Interlude” giving us those classic ad-libs he was known for, as T-Boz explains “the flyest kinda ho to get with, in 94”. I’m sure it wouldn’t be politically correct to refer to a woman as a “ho”, but we get the point of what she was trying to say.
That leads us to the next Babyface ballad “Red Light Special” which is quite overt sexually and unlike anything we had heard from TLC before. This was the second single from the album and spawned three different versions of the video: “Sexy”, “Sexier”, and “Sexiest”.
“Waterfalls” was the third and biggest single from the album, spending seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The powerful song talks about being wary of the ways of the world and taking heed of the advice of elders. The song was produced by Organized Noize and written by in part by Marqueze Etheridge. Cee-Lo and Debra Killings sung background vocals. It gave Organized Noize their big break and put them in high demand. The track is arguably one of the best songs of the 90’s. It was later revealed in interviews that Left Eye wrote one of the best and most memorable rap verses of the year while in a diversion center after burning down her then-boyfriend André Rison’s mansion.
“Dreams are hopeless aspirations in hopes of coming true. Believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you” – Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
Following “Waterfalls” is “Let’s Do It Again” by Babyface and Jon-John, appealing to the sexier nature of the album. ItsI followed up by a remake of Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” that was produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs, Chucky Thompson and Dallas Austin. Reportedly, Prince was so impressed by the remake that he wanted to work with the girl group, and we all know how particular Prince was.
Next is the most hilarious interlude called “Sexy”, where Chili seductively prank calls an unknown character played by Puffy and then flushes a toilet leaving him hanging speechless, literally. Chili takes the lead on the track after that, “Take Our Time” produced and written by Arnold Hennings, Debra Killings, and Dallas Austin. It’s a smooth slow jam that is almost reminiscent of an Isley Brothers song.
The last interlude on the album “Can I Get A Witness” features Busta Rhymes giving his testimonial for dating a CrazySexyCool woman as Left Eye ad-libs in the background. The beat drops for “Switch”, a Jermaine Dupri produced track featuring background vocals by Trey Lorenz and a sample of “Mr. Big Stuff” performed by Jean Knight. The song is all about having trust in a relationship, and when your man acts up Left-Eye encourages us to “switch and take his friend”.
The final track on the album “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes” is written by Organized Noize, Marqueze Etheridge and features an intro verse by a young Andre 3000 and a haunting verse by Left Eye.
With CrazySexyCool, TLC became the first female group to have an album certified Diamond. It eventually went on to sell 14 million albums worldwide. For a time, they held the record for the best-selling album by a girl group of all time until The Spice Girls surpassed them.
CrazySexyCool went on to earn two Grammys for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with vocals for “Creep”. It earned awards from the American Music Awards, Soul Train Awards, Viewer’s Choice Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards.
Clearly CrazySexyCool shattered records and expectations for this girl group hailing from Atlanta, GA. All the writers, producers, and musicians involved helped make a work of art that is sonically incomparable. It shifted the sound in the mid-90’s and made way for a crop of Atlanta-based artists and producers. It helped put southern R&B and hip-Hop on the map and brought forth artists like Outkast and Goodie Mob as well as paved the way for future artists like Ciara, Destiny’s Child, and Cash Money.
Overall, CrazySexyCool is still a great album to listen to that is sure to bring nostalgia. If you are like me, you’ll be doing the choreography to “Creep” in your living room or doing the Bankhead Bounce in your car to “Waterfalls”. Check out four videos from CrazySexyCool on the YouTube playlist below.