Still touring and receiving accolades, TLC celebrated in Atlanta for 30 years of ‘CrazySexyCool’

(l. to r.) Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, surviving members of Grammy-winning vocal group TLC,  are performing at Stockbridge Amphitheater on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Credit: Derek Blanks

Credit: Derek Blanks

(l. to r.) Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, surviving members of Grammy-winning vocal group TLC, are performing at Stockbridge Amphitheater on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

Thirty years ago, bestselling female vocal trio TLC defied the sophomore slump with their album “CrazySexyCool.” It turned them into superstars.

This Saturday, TLC’s surviving members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas are performing at Stockbridge Amphitheater to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the album, which to date has sold more than 12 million copies.

“We take performing for our fans and making sure they have a great experience very seriously,” Thomas said. “This show is nostalgic for us.”

Performing in Stockbridge is a homecoming to Watkins, who used to own a home near the venue. “I didn’t even know they had an amphitheater down there,” Watkins joked.

TLC's Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (left) and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas.

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Atlanta hip-hop quartet Goodie Mob and R&B trio Brownstone are joining as the show’s opening acts. Sharing the stage with Goodie Mob, Watkins said, is both a family reunion and bittersweet.

Watkins was a childhood friend of Rico Wade, the late founder of Goodie Mob’s production team Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family collective. She helped get the group signed to a recording contract with LaFace Records. And Organized Noize was responsible for TLC’s biggest hit, “Waterfalls,” from the “CrazySexyCool” album.

“I’m why he had a career, and he’s why I have a career,” Watkins said. “It reminds you that everybody should get their flowers when they’re alive. I wish he was here to see the love that he has.”

Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins of TLC and Rico Wade at MTV's "A Great Day In Atlanta" shoot at the Gilbert House. (PHOTO SONIA MURRAY/STAFF)

Credit: AJC

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Credit: AJC

At the show, TLC will receive flowers in the form of the Phoenix Award, the City of Atlanta’s highest honor, and an Outstanding Citizens Award from the State of Georgia.

“We love Atlanta,” said Thomas, calling herself “a true Georgia peach.” “It means everything for home to embrace and love us.”

The props don’t stop there. On Sunday, TLC is being honored with the Eternal Harmony Award at the fifth-annual Black Music Moguls brunch at The Gathering Spot.

During the ceremony, music streaming service Pandora will also award the group a plaque recognizing “Waterfalls” receiving more than one billion streams. That same day, TLC will receive honorary doctorate degrees in musicology from Trinity International University of Ambassadors in Duluth.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

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Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Watkins said the success of “CrazySexyCool” was instrumental in helping Atlanta become a music and cultural capital.

“We helped put LaFace and Atlanta on the map,” Watkins said. “It all started here for us. People that come here now don’t even recognize that, and it needs to be known more.”

LaFace Records artists Usher (left) and TLC pose with label head L.A. Reid in the Atlanta office in 1995.
(Courtesy of Sheri Riley)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Released in November 1994, “CrazySexyCool” meshed hip-hop, R&B, funk and pop with lyrics about female empowerment, street life, AIDS, humanity, and romance, with hit singles like “Creep,” “Red Light Special” and “Diggin’ on You.”

Thomas said the album’s recording sessions and working with producers like Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, one of LaFace’s co-owners, helped her discover her full singing voice.

“It was amazing... [Babyface] just pushed me in a way that no one else did. It helped me come out of my shell. That album showed that we were here to stay,” she said.

The big-budget music video for “Waterfalls,” directed by F. Gary Gray, won Video of the Year at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. The ladies said the visual played a major part in the song’s success and aren’t sure the song would have become such a major hit without a video component.

“Radio had no clue what we were talking about, so the video was just as important as the song because it brought the words to life,” Thomas said.

She added that “Waterfalls’ was Left Eye’s favorite song, and that the deceased group member convinced LaFace co-founder Antonio “L.A.” Reid to fund the video by asking with a note handwritten on a large piece of cardboard.

Thomas also said the beginning of Left Eye’s rap lyrics on “Waterfalls” are based on a true story.

“On the way to the studio, she actually saw a rainbow. She was super-inspired by that, and no one knew that was going to be our biggest record.“

From the documentary "Last Days of Left Eye," which aired shortly before Left Eye's death in a car crash in 2002.

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Though the group had already evolved to sensual, coordinated costumes from the baggy, colorful clothes seen during the era of their 1992 debut album “Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip,” Watkins said TLC didn’t allow record executives to help them figure out a visual image.

“We were trying to find ourselves and what vibe we were going to be,” Watkins said. “I didn’t need anybody telling me who I’m going to be or critiquing what I’m going to sound like. I wanted to figure it out myself.”

990215--ATLANTA--R&B trio TLC - Left to right, Rozonda 'Chili' Thomas, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes and Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins. (PHOTO BY DAH LEN/LAFACE RECORDS)

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TLC is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of their third album “Fan Mail” this year. The album sold over six million copies and featured the number one singles “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” a song written by Watkins.

Watkins, who’s affected with sickle cell anemia, said “Unpretty” helped her realize how her health battles and self-image inspired her fans.

“It was a personal situation that I had no idea would resonate with so many people,” Watkins said. “God kept getting me through all of these things I was told I wouldn’t get through, so I knew I could help people and make a difference.”

A major challenge was the death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died in a car crash in Honduras in 2002.

020502. LITHONIA. Fans showed up by the thousands at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for the funeral of Lisa Lopes. RICH ADDICKS/STAFF


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Watkins and Thomas continued as a duo after her passing, releasing the album “3D” only a few months later that year. Although “3D” was certified platinum by RIAA, with sales of one million copies, Watkins and Thomas agree their grief following Lopes’ death left them both uncertain of TLC’s future.

“We were totally discombobulated after Lisa passed away,” Thomas said. “There were so many different feelings and emotions, and we should’ve chilled for a while.”

Still actively touring the globe, the two ladies rehearse at least six hours per day for five days a week. “We go hard and still get it in,” Watkins said. “You never want to sleep. That’s how we’ve been able to carry the torch.”

Thomas says while she misses Left Eye’s playful spirit the group continues to leave room to be silly and have fun. “Even to this day, we’re ready to prank somebody in a minute. Certain things about us will never change.”

With TLC’s songs regularly appearing in Tik Tok challenges, they say it’s normal to see fans attending their shows who were born after “CrazySexyCool” was released.

Thomas said the group encourages younger fans to pay attention to their subject matter.

“We always tell our young fans to listen to the songs so they can learn,” Thomas said. “All of our songs are relatable with everyday things that we all go through. The lyrical content is very helpful.”

Thomas and Watkins say their longevity is a blessing. Through ups and downs, life and death, and all the controversies and changes in between, their resilience continues as does their legacy, making old and new generations of fans continue to sing their praises.

TLC's Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas played a trove of hits at Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on July 24, 2019. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /

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“All of this stuff, and record company issues that we went through and put up with, is well worth it,” Watkins said.

“We’re still here able to enjoy the music, love and good parts of the industry. We put our time in and worked hard for all of this stuff, but it wasn’t for nothing.”

TLC 30th Anniversary Celebration of “CrazySexyCool” happens 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8 at Stockbridge Amphitheater, 4650 N. Henry Blvd., Stockbridge.