Packed with hits—and plenty of personality—TLC’s 1992 debut Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip had helped reshape the sound of modern pop. By expertly mixing together R&B and hip-hop, TLC members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas had proved they could blur genre lines with ease. Still, the new jack swing aesthetics of Ooooooohhh...—and the youthful image projected by the trio—could easily have fated TLC to subsequent obscurity, subject to the whims of a fickle marketplace (and an even crueler industry). The group’s 1994 follow-up, CrazySexyCool, put all of that noise to bed. With its decidedly more mature themes and undeniably strong execution, the album proved a multi-platinum powerhouse, one that proved once and for all that TLC wasn’t a fad. All three members were in their mid-twenties when CrazySexyCool was released, and the album finds them digging deep into the dynamics of modern relationships—albeit with a sex-positive perspective. “Creep,” the smash lead-off single, leans heavily into the old adage “turnabout Is fair play,” with T-Boz quietly yet confidently admitting to down-low trysts (all done as retaliation against her philandering partner). The funk-fueled “Kick Your Game,” meanwhile, finds the group members poignantly goading their would-be suitors, while the trio’s take on Prince’s gender-fluid “If I Was Your Girlfriend” adds new dimensions to the already iconic track. Throughout CrazySexyCool, the three distinct personalities, voices, and attitudes that make up TLC come through clearer than ever, making for a remarkably cohesive and assured effort. The group is helped, of course, by some top-tier production. Dallas Austin, the studio architect behind much of Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, returns here with a handful of notable cuts—including “Creep”—as does hip-hop hitmaker Jermaine Dupri. And Babyface helms some of CrazySexyCool’s most memorable R&B moments, including the intimate “Diggin’ On You” and “Red Light Special.” Yet it’s the Organized Noize production team that bolsters the album’s remarkable second half, featuring the still-ubiquitous motivational hit “Waterfalls,” and the forward-thinking closing track “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes.” And the guest list for this provocative party includes such vanguard rappers as Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, and a Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik-period André 3000. Their presence on CrazySexyCool was a clear nod to the trio’s hard-earned hip-hop dominance—and further proof that no 1990s act could mix sounds and styles as effectively, and as joyously, as TLC.

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