I usually spend my Monday evenings falling asleep on the first hour of WWE’s Monday Night Raw – I ain’t built for three hour TV shows on a school night.
But this evening, thanks to my love of 90s hip hop and R&B and the magic powers of DVR, I was able to catch the supremely hyped “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” on VH1.
And you know what? It actually lived up to expectations.
TLC’s hits, of course, proved timeless, reminding me that their music served as a soundtrack for most of my adolescent and young adult life. Middle school Edd thought the condoms wedged in their shades in their first videos were plastic egg yokes. I was so innocent. I listened as they “Creeped” through the halls of my high school and had entitled (but broke) chicks screaming slurs against “Scrubs” on my college campus. And my future wife and I even bonded over their final album, which wasn’t nearly the disaster many folks claim.
While the music was undeniable, the performances of the main actors were surprisingly stellar too. Keke Palmer and Drew Sidora shined in their roles as Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, respectively. But the real star was Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, played by Lil Mama or Lil Bow Wow or whoever that was. Regardless, s/he OWNED that role, embodying both the fury and feistiness that made her one of the biggest stars of the 90s.
I thought I was pretty well-versed in TLC’s tumultuous history but I came away with new appreciation for the group after the credits rolled – and ads for the hideous Love & Hip Hop infested my screen. Y’all really watch that trash?
Anyway, here are five things I learned from watching The TLC Story.
1. Life sucks for Crystal.
The mysterious Crystal was the original “C” in TLC before getting dumped for Chilli. And it was a wise move, considering that the movie portrayed her as having the vocal prowess of Rihanna eating a sandpaper sandwich. Seriously, there is no way she could have sounded THAT bad in real life. What ever happened to the poor child? I have no idea but seeing that the movie portrayed her has a low-rent Beyonce I assume she was locked in the Knowles attic, never to be seen again. They had two more where that came from, after all.
2. Pebbles is Joe Jackson in drag.
In the movie, when TLC signed their contract, they screamed “We about to get this money!”
Uh huh. I bet MoKenStef said the same thing.
FEAR HER BANGS.
Anyway, TLC’s manager Pebbles has never been painted in the most positive of light but good lord, this movie made her a wig-wearing Gargamel. She gave the girls a $25 weekly stipend, which means I made more money cutting my lawn than the best selling female group of all time. Let that sink in – you had more money than the best selling girl group of all time. Yes, you, the person who spent 15 minutes arguing with the Walgreens cashier over coupons. I know this because I was standing behind you.
Pebbles got annoyed with Chilli and kicked her out of the group; she bought them some raggedy, outdated Rav-4s to appease them; and wound up suing them a few years later. TLC’s story isn’t unique though, even Toni Braxton was eating ramen noodles while on LaFace Records. Did ANYONE make money on LaFace? Other than LA Reid and Babyface?
3. Chilli’s love life was horrible. And it was all her fault.
Dallas Austin, the movie’s second biggest d-bag next to Pebbles, was absolutely ridiculous. Yet Chilli spent the first half of the movie pining for him, even though T-Boz told him he was no good. He gets her pregnant, convinces her to have an abortion, parades other girls in front of her at the studio (which of course enrages her), then when she finally moves on, he’s overcome by the Great Spirit of the Thirst Gods and crawls back to her. She of course takes him back but dumps him after they have another child because she finally listens to her “sisters” and realizes he’s a no good DAWG. Thankfully we didn’t have time to see her lust after the Teenage Usher Ninja Turtle. And we all now how well that ended.
Plus, who cast Dallas to look like my Cousin Chris Brown?
4. When did TLC go “Set It Off” on Clive Davis?
In a story I’ve NEVER heard of until tonight, the disgruntled girls gathered a bunch of ghetto girlfriends – the type of chicks that make dudes grab their wallets in the club so they won’t get pick-pocketed – and stormed Clive Davis’ office. They planned to confiscate anything with TLC on it in an effort to get their contracts straightened out. The women burst in the office like Call of Duty, yell at Puff Daddy(?!?!) and get in Clive’s face. Did this REALLY happen? Because it seems like something we would have heard about before now.
5. Chilli and T-Boz’s beef with Left Eye was overblown.
I had always suspected this and the movie confirmed it. Y’all know the story, around the release of TLC’s second album and seeping into the release of the third, Left Eye starting going nuts in public, most famously setting fire to the house of boyfriend Andre Rison.
Side note – I really disliked the scenes with Lisa and Rison, where Rison quickly turned into the Evil Dark Skinned Man from a Madea play and “spit game” like Len-NAY from Good Times. It was really, really stupid stuff.
Anyway, while Left Eye was getting horrible advice from her yes man, Ja Rule-wannabe Larry (who WAS that guy, anyway?) and considering stupid things like signing with Master P (which looks even dumber in retrospect) she didn’t really seem to have a personal conflict with her friends. She just wanted to experiment with new sounds and move away from traditional R&B. Left Eye proved to be a visionary because those new sounds were EXACTLY where the industry was headed. Sadly, she tragically lost her life before she could contribute – she would have been a major star. Still, even during her conflicts with the other girls, the movie portrayed her as staying in contact with the group, even seeing T-Boz shortly after giving birth. It wasn’t the Pac/Biggie level beef the media stirred up at the time.
Can you imagine how overblow the beef would have gotten if Twitter was around? Lisa Lopes with a Twitter account would have been a very dangerous thing.
The movie ended shortly after Left Eye’s death, completely ignoring the group’s final album 3D and their ‘R U the Girl’ reality show.
O’so Krispie is living under a rock somewhere and PISSED that she was ignored.
“CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” is no “The Jacksons: An American Dream” but it’s still a satisfying slice of ’90s nostalgia. The girls may have dressed like Fat Albert’s junkyard friends but when they were a unit they were unstoppable.
Through the meteoric highs and rock-bottom lows, they changed the game for female artists. They stayed true to themselves till the bitter end. This movie was a great reminder of that.