1990–1991: Formation and early years
Atlanta, Georgia–based record producer Ian Burke and one of his clients, a teenager named Crystal Jones, came up with a concept for a
girl group with a tomboyish,
hip-hop image, similar to the blend of
contemporary R&B and
hip hop music of
new jack swing act
Bell Biv DeVoe.
 Jones put out a call for two more girls to join her in this trio. Her request was eventually answered by
Tionne Watkins, a native of
Des Moines, Iowa, who had moved to Atlanta with her family at a young age, and
Lisa Lopes, a
rapper who had just moved to the city from her native
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a small
keyboard and $750 ($1,405 today). Calling the group 2nd Nature, Jones, Watkins, and Lopes began working with producers
Jermaine Dupri and
Rico Wade on
demo tape material.
TLC original members: Chilli (left), Lisa Lopes (on drawing center) and T-Boz (right)
Through a connection at the hair salon where Watkins worked
 the group eventually managed to arrange an audition with singer
Perri "Pebbles" Reid, who had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone. Impressed by the girls, Reid renamed the group TLC-Skee, with "TLC" being an
acronym for the names Tionne, Lisa, and Crystal. Reid arranged an audition for them with local record label
LaFace Records, run by
Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Reid's then-husband,
Antonio "L.A." Reid.
Antonio Reid saw potential in Watkins and Lopes as performers, but felt that Jones should be replaced. According to Jones, things began to unravel for her after Pebbles denied the group the opportunity to take home the contracts that Pebbitone had drafted. Jones did not want to sign before having the contract reviewed by others and perhaps a lawyer.
 In contrast, Watkins' recollection of Jones' departure is that both she and Lopes asked Jones to leave the group before their initial contracts were negotiated.
On February 28, 1991, Watkins and Lopes signed
production, management, and
publishing deals with Pebbitone,
 with Perri Reid becoming their general manager. As they looked for a replacement for Jones, the two-member TLC-Skee made its first recorded appearance on a track for LaFace act
Damian Dame's self-titled 1991 LP.
 Pebbles found the third member in
Rozonda Thomas, one of Damian Dame's part-time backup dancers.
Thomas was signed to the act in April 1991,
 at about which time the group's name was shortened to TLC. To maintain TLC's name as an acronym for the girls' names, Watkins became "T-Boz", Lopes became "Left-Eye", and Thomas became "Chilli". The girls were then signed to LaFace in May through the production deal with Pebbitone;
 their records would be distributed by
Arista Records/BMG. TLC was immediately set up to go into the studio with Reid and Edmonds,
Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and
Marley Marl producing their first album. The new trio debuted as backing vocalists on "Rebel (With a Cause)", a track on Jermaine Jackson's sole album for LaFace, You Said (1991).
1992–1993: Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and early success
Their debut album,
Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, was released on February 25, 1992, by
Arista Records. The songs on the album are a blend of funk (Watkins), hip-hop (Lopes), and R&B (Thomas), similar to the new jack swing sound popularized by producer
Teddy Riley in the late 1980s.
 The album was a critical and commercial success, being certified quadruple-platinum for shipments of four million copies in the United States. It scored three top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 with "
Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "
Baby-Baby-Baby" (peaked at number two), and "
What About Your Friends", as well as the top 30 single "
Hat 2 Da Back".
TLC's debut album, chiefly written by Dallas Austin and Lisa Lopes, consisted of playful lyrics, with some female-empowering songs. It was characterized by Watkins' tenor vocals, Thomas's alto vocals and Lopez's soprano raps. The musical formula was augmented by the girls' brightly colored videos and curious costuming: each girl wore wrapped condoms on their clothing (Lopes also wore one over her left eye in a pair of glasses).
During TLC's first national tour, as
MC Hammer's opening act, Lopes and Thomas discovered that Watkins had
sickle-cell anemia, an ailment which she kept a closely guarded secret until she became very ill while TLC was touring the
Southwest US. Watkins continued to battle her condition and eventually became a spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in the late 1990s.
 She was hospitalized, Lopes and Thomas stayed with her and some concerts were cancelled. At the conclusion of the tour, TLC—who had received very little money up to this point—decided to take more control of their careers and thus informed Pebbles that they no longer wished her to be their manager. Reid released the group from its management deal, but they remained signed to Pebbitone, and Reid continued to receive a share of their earnings. Also in 1994, TLC played the musical group "Sex as a Weapon" in the
New Line Cinema feature film
House Party 3, starring
Kid 'n Play.
Lopes began dating
Andre Rison shortly after the release of Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, and by 1994 the two were living together in Rison's upscale double-story home. Their relationship was allegedly filled with violent moments, and Lopes filed an assault charge against Rison on September 2, 1993. Rison denied battering her. Lopes was also battling alcoholism at the time. She had been a heavy drinker since the age of fifteen. After another fight between the couple in the early morning hours of June 9, 1994, Lopes tossed numerous pairs of Rison's newly purchased shoes into a bathtub, doused them with
lighter fluid, and lit them on fire. The
fiberglass bathtub quickly melted and set the structural frame of the house on fire. Lopes was arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree arson; she was sentenced to five years of
probation and a $10,000 fine. Rison eventually reconciled with Lopes, and they continued dating on and off for seven years.
1994–1997: CrazySexyCool, career height and bankruptcy
TLC's second studio album,
CrazySexyCool saw the group reunited with producers Dallas Austin, Babyface and Jermaine Dupri, as well as new collaborators
Chucky Thompson and
Sean "Puffy" Combs. Lopes was released from rehab to attend the recording sessions, but the finished album featured significantly less of her raps and vocals. An R&B and hip hop soul album, CrazySexyCool featured hip-hop beats, funk, deep grooves, propulsive rhythms and smooth production
 Released on November 15, 1994, CrazySexyCool was critically acclaimed, with
Rolling Stone ranking it among the
500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
 CrazySexyCool debuted at number 15. Eventually it peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and spent over two years on the chart. The album sold over 11 million copies in the United States alone and still remains the only album by a female singing group in history to receive
diamond certification from the RIAA.
 With worldwide sales exceeding 23 million copies, CrazySexyCool became one of the best selling album by a girl group and was later only outsold by the
All four singles from CrazySexyCool reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100—"
Creep" and "
Waterfalls" reached number one, "
Red Light Special" peaked number two and "
Diggin' on You" reached number five. "Waterfalls", an Organized Noise-produced song that features an old-school
soul-based musical arrangement, socially conscious lyrics criticizing drug dealing and unsafe sex, and an introspective rap from Lopes, became the biggest hit of TLC's career. Its million-dollar music video was an
MTV staple for many months and made TLC the first black artist to win
MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year.
 At the
38th Annual Grammy Awards, TLC took home
Best R&B Album and
Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for "Creep".
 Billboard also crowned TLC as the Artist of the Year at the 1996
Billboard Music Awards.
In the midst of their apparent success, the members of TLC filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3, 1995.
 TLC declared debts totaling $3.5 million, some of it due to Lopes' insurance payments arising from the arson incident and Watkins' medical bills, but the primary reason being that the group received what they called a less than favorable deal from Pebbitone. After Arista Records, LaFace, and Pebbitone recouped their investment for recording costs and manufacturing and distribution (common recoupable charges in most record contracts), both Pebbitone and LaFace Records went on to charge for expenses such as airline travel, hotels, promotion, music videos, food, clothing, and other expenses. According to the members of TLC, ironically, the more successful the album became, the more they were in debt. In addition to this, managers, lawyers, producers, and taxes had to be paid, leaving each member of the group with less than $50,000 a year after having sold millions upon millions of albums.
TLC sought to renegotiate their 1991 contract with LaFace, under which they received only .56 cents (split three ways) per album sold —considerably less than most major label recording contracts. They received less for each single sold. TLC also wanted to dissolve their association with Pebbitone. LaFace Records refused to renegotiate their deal midway through the contract, thus prompting TLC to file a bankruptcy petition.
 Both Pebbitone and LaFace countered that TLC simply wanted more money and were in no real financial danger, resulting in two years of legal debates before the cases were finally
settled in late 1996. TLC's contract was renegotiated with LaFace, and Pebbitone agreed to let them out of their production/management deal in exchange for Pebbitone receiving a percentage of royalties on some future releases. By this time, Pebbles had separated from her husband. TLC also bought the rights to the name TLC, which was previously owned by Pebbles.
TLC recorded the theme song to
All That which was produced and co-written by Arnold Hennings which ran for ten seasons. The group appeared on the
soundtrack album of the
Forest Whitaker's 1995 film
Waiting to Exhale with "This Is How It Works" (a song written by Babyface and Lopes) and was set to re-enter the recording studio the following year after signing a new contract with LaFace and with distribution handled by Arista. Watkins began to release her solo effort with "
Touch Myself", a single from the
soundtrack album of 1996 film
Fled; It reached the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Lopes also collaborated with fellow female rappers
Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott,
Da Brat and
Angie Martinez on
Lil' Kim's single "
Not Tonight". It peaked at number six on the Hot 100 and was nominated for
Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the
40th Grammy Awards.
1998–2001: FanMail and members feud
Preliminary work on TLC's third studio album was delayed when friction arose between the group and their main producer
Dallas Austin, who was by this time dating Thomas and helping to raise their son Tron. Austin wanted $4.2 million and creative control to work on the project, resulting in a stand-off between the producer and the artists. During this period, Thomas appeared in the independent film HavPlenty, while Watkins co-starred with rappers
Hype Williams's 1998 film
Belly. Lopes started her own production company, Left-Eye Productions, and signed
Blaque, a female R&B trio. Under her guidance, Blaque released their 1999 self-titled debut album which was certified platinum and contained two top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Lopes also hosted the short-lived
MTV talent series
The Cut (1998) which featured then-unknown recording artists
Anastacia. TLC eventually began working with other producers for their third album, until finally negotiating with Austin, who produced the bulk of the album. Lopes always had an idea of a futuristic-feel for the project, which Austin incorporated into the album. Titled
FanMail, the album was released in February 1999 to another critical and commercial success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified six-time platinum by the RIAA for six million copies shipped in the United States, and worldwide sales exceed 14 million copies. "
No Scrubs" was released as the lead single and became a worldwide hit, topping the singles chart in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. The album's second single, "
Unpretty", became TLC's fourth number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
 The other three singles also received decent radio play: "Silly Ho", "I'm Good at Being Bad", and Edmonds-written ballad, "Dear Lie".
42nd Annual Grammy Awards, FanMail received eight nominations, and won three awards:
Best R&B Album,
Best R&B Song and
Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, the last two for "No Scrubs". At the
Lady of Soul Awards the group was honored with the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award.
 The group went on a worldwide tour, entitled the
FanMail Tour. The group had a PayPerView special of their tour which at the time became PayPerView's highest grossing televised special.
During and after the release of FanMail, Lopes made it known to the press on multiple occasions that she felt that she was unable to fully express herself in TLC. Her contributions to songs had been reduced to periodic eight-
bar raps, and there were several songs in which she had no vocals. Studio session singers such as
Debra Killings often sang background vocals for the group's songs, something Lopes also wanted to do on songs in which she didn't rap. In late 1999,
Vibe Magazine published a letter written by Lopes that challenged her groupmates Watkins and Thomas to all record solo albums and see which album performed the best:
"I challenge Tionne "Player" Watkins (T-boz) and Rozonda "Hater" Thomas (Chilli) to an album entitled The Challenge... a 3-CD set that contains three solo albums. Each (album)... will be due to the record label by October 1, 2000... I also challenge producer Dallas "The Manipulator" Austin to produce all of the material and do it at a fraction of his normal rate. As I think about it, I'm sure LaFace would not mind throwing in a $1.5 million prize for the winner."
The ladies eventually settled the feud, and The Challenge was never taken up. After the conclusion of the successful FanMail tour, the ladies took some time off and pursued personal interests. Lopes was the first to begin recording her solo album,
Supernova. The album was released in Europe and the first -and only single- "The Block Party" reached the Top 20 on the
UK Singles Chart. The song was released in the United States a few weeks prior to the scheduled album release. However, when the song did not perform well, the album's release was canceled for North America and no further singles were promoted. In 2000,
Spice Girls member
Melanie C collaborated with Lopes on the single "
Never Be the Same Again"; it became an international hit reaching number one in many countries.
2002–2006: Lopes' death, 3D and R U The Girl
Following the unsuccessful debut solo album, Supernova, Lopes started working on her second solo album. On April 25, 2002, before the album was completed, Lopes died in a car crash while filming a documentary in Honduras, which would later be released as
The Last Days of Left Eye in 2007 on VH1.
 After taking a hiatus following Lopes' death, Watkins, Thomas, and Austin decided that they would complete the remainder of their fourth album, to be called
3D, which also featured production from
Missy Elliott and
Timbaland. A decision was also made that TLC would retire after the release and promotion of 3D, rather than replace Lopes and continue as a group. However, ultimately they chose to carry on as a duo. Lopes appears vocally on 3D as she had already completed her vocals for two songs for the new album. Another two other songs featured her vocals from previously unreleased songs. Several of the songs
eulogized Lopes. "3D" was released on November 12, 2002.
Upon its release, 3D debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and was certified two times platinum by the RIAA for two million shipped in the United States. It failed to generate success overseas, with exception of Japan where it reached number two and achieved platinum from the RIAJ for 200,000 copies sold. The album's lead single, "
Girl Talk", peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their lowest-charting lead single ever. Its music video featured Watkins and Thomas alone in live-action segments and Lopes in animated segments. It was followed with "
Hands Up", which became their first single not to enter the Hot 100 chart (peaking at number seven on the
Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles), and "
Damaged", which reached number 53 on the Hot 100.
In June 2003, a year after the death of Lopes, at Zootopia, an annual concert hosted by New York radio station
Z100 held at
Giants Stadium, TLC appeared in what was announced to be their last performance. The group, introduced by
Carson Daly, showed a video montage dedicated to Lopes, and went on to perform songs against video footage of Lopes performing the same songs, and wearing the same outfits, that were appearing onstage.
 Nevertheless, TLC made a comeback in February 2004 as a featured artist on a Japanese charity single entitled
VOICE OF LOVE POSSE with other Japanese artists.
 In 2003, LaFace released the first TLC's
greatest hits album entitled
Now & Forever: The Hits with a new song, "
Come Get Some", featuring
Lil Jon and
Sean P of the
 However, the compilation was not released in the United States until June 2005. The album debuted at number 53 with 20,000 copies sold.
On June 25, 2004, Watkins and Thomas announced that they were pitching a reality television show that was eventually picked up for development by
R U the Girl, the show debuted on July 27, 2005. Despite media speculation that the winner of the series was to become a new, permanent member of TLC, Watkins and Thomas have vowed to never replace Lopes with a new member. The winner of the show, 20-year-old Tiffany "O'so Krispie" Baker, recorded with Watkins and Thomas on a new song, "I Bet", and perform it together in a live concert finale in Atlanta. Roughly 4.1 million viewers tuned in for the season finale of R U The Girl on September 20, 2005. "I Bet" was released to radio and iTunes on October 4, 2005, but failed to make onto the charts. The song later became a bonus track on Now & Forever: The Hits.
2007–2014: Hiatus and biographical television film
On August 20, 2007, a new greatest hits album was released in the UK called
Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC. The album fared better than previous compilation Now & Forever: The Hits, peaking at number 57 on the
UK Albums Chart. On June 24, 2008, Watkins and Thomas made a special appearance on the
BET Awards. They, along with the original members of
En Vogue and
SWV, performed in
Alicia Keys' tribute to girl groups.
 On April 4, 2009, the group performed a 13-song set in Japan during the 2009 Springroove music festival. On October 17, 2009, TLC performed their set to the 10,000 audience at the Justin Timberlake and Friends benefit concert, held at the
Mandalay Bay Events Center in the
Las Vegas Valley, U.S.
 On May 25, 2011, TLC also performed for the season finale of
In 2012, Watkins and Thomas appeared in British pop group
Stooshe's music video for their cover version of "Waterfalls". It was later be included in
Totally T-Boz, a docu-series chronicling Watkins's move to California, health issues and solo endeavors.
 Stooshe later performed "Waterfalls" at the 17th annual
MOBO Awards on November 3, 2012, where TLC was honored with Outstanding Contribution to Music.
 On June 23, 2013, TLC received the Legend Award at the 2013
MTV Video Music Awards Japan, at which they also performed a medley of their hit singles. On June 19, 2013, to celebrate their 20th anniversary in the music industry, the group released a Japan-exclusive compilation album entitled TLC 20: 20th Anniversary Hits, which includes remastered versions of their old songs; as a gift for their Japanese fans, they also recorded a new version of "Waterfalls", enlisting Japanese singer
Namie Amuro to sing Lopes's part.
 The decision to record with Amuro was raised as an issue by Lopes's family, who felt "betrayed", as they were not informed about the vocal replacement.
 Watkins and Thomas subsequently stated that they had been unable to gain clearance to use Lopes' vocals for the new version of the song, but that Lopes would've approved of having Amuro on the track.
TLC was featured on "
Crooked Smile", the second single from American rapper
J. Cole's 2013 album
Born Sinner. It peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving TLC their first top 40 hit in over a decade. The collaboration won the "Impact Track" award at the 2013
BET Hip Hop Awards and was nominated for
MTV Video Music Award for Best Video with a Social Message at the
2014 MTV Video Music Awards. They also made an appearance at the
2013 MTV Video Music Awards, introducing
 TLC signed a new recording contract with
Epic Records and released an American version of the compilation album
20 on October 15, 2013.
 The album included one new recording, "Meant to Be", written and produced by
 The song served as the soundtrack for
CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, a TLC biographical
telefilm, which premiered on
VH1 on October 21, 2013. Directed by
Charles Stone III, the film starred
Keke Palmer as Thomas,
Lil Mama as Lopes and
Drew Sidora as Watkins. The film uses the newly rearranged songs from TLC 20: 20th Anniversary Hits. The premiere broadcast garnered 4.5 million viewers, a five-year ratings high for VH1.
 In November 2013, TLC had three albums charting on the Billboard 200 including 20 at number 12, CrazySexyCool at number 108 and Now and Forever: The Hits at number 169.
On November 24, 2013, TLC performed a highly anticipated rendition of "Waterfalls" at the 2013 American Music Awards, with Lil Mama delivering Lopes's part, including the rap segment.
 Subsequently, TLC performed "No Scrubs" with Lil Mama on the
Dancing With The Stars television show.
 In January 2014, TLC appeared at VH1's "Super Bowl Concert Series" performing at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
 TLC announced the first Australian tour of their career in April 2014 that will consist of shows in Sydney,
Brisbane, Melbourne and
Perth. The group will be performing a set of their hits & will include visual and vocal representation of Lopes for the performance.
 On December 12, 2014, TLC released a new Christmas song entitled "
Gift Wrapped Kiss".
2015–present: Comeback tours and self-titled studio album
TLC performing live in 2016
On January 19, 2015, TLC announced their plan to release their fifth and final album with the launch of a
Kickstarter campaign. They asked fans to help finance the project by donating a pledge of at least $5 to reach their goal of $150,000.
 In less than 48 hours, they surpassed their goal and become the "fastest most funded pop project in Kickstarter history". Among other artists who donated were
New Kids on the Block (donating $10,000),
Katy Perry (donating $5,000),
Bette Midler and
Justin Timberlake. The Kickstarter campaign raised a total of $400,000. In an interview published following the end of the campaign, Watkins and Thomas clarified that they would never split up following the release and promotion of the album, and that they would continue to perform together as TLC.
In May 2015, TLC embarked on a North American tour with New Kids on the Block and Nelly titled
The Main Event Tour. It was their first tour in 15 years since the completion of Fanmail Tour in 2000. Subsequently, TLC embarked on
TLC 2016-17 Tour and
I Love the 90s: The Party Continues Tour. During the development of their album, they petitioned Lisa Lopes' brother Ron Lopes for assistance with making Left Eye's presence on the album a possibility since she had an abundance of unreleased material. However, while being interviewed by Toronto music station 93-5 The Move on September 21, Thomas stated, "Actually on the last album after she passed away we went through a lot of her raps and used those then. I don't think so because we've already done that." On October 28, 2016, TLC released two new songs off of the new album called "Joyride" and "Haters" in Japan. The former hit number one on the iTunes R&B chart in Japan. For the first time ever, on December 8, 2016, TLC performed "Sleigh Ride" with surprise guest
Missy Elliott along with their latest song "Sunny" on Taraji's White Hot Holidays, a holiday special on
Fox hosted by actress
Taraji P. Henson.
Their fifth and final studio album,
TLC, was released on June 30, 2017.
 It was reported to have collaborations from Dallas Austin and Kandi Burruss.
 The album's first single "
Way Back" featuring
Snoop Dogg was released April 14 to all major digital music outlets and streaming services, but not to radio. The single was produced by
D'Mile and released via TLC's newly formed independent label 852 Musiq which is distributed through
RED Distribution in the US.
 On May 9, 2017, TLC made their UK Debut at London's KOKO. Ultimately,
TLC sold 12,000 copies domestically in the first week.