Rewinding the Charts: 20 Years Ago, TLC's 'Creep' Crowned the Hot 100
'Creep' became the first of four top five Hot 100 hits that helped make the trio's 'CrazySexyCool' the biggest-selling album by a female pop group in history, but bankruptcy – and worse – were looming.
IN 1995, THE FUTURE LOOKED BRIGHT for TLC. After a string of five Billboard Hot 100 hits that began with its debut 1992 single, "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," the Atlanta-based trio – rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, 23, and singers Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, 24, and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, 24 – topped the chart for the first time on Jan. 28, 1995 with the slinky cheating anthem "Creep."
The track, one of four top five hits from TLC's second album, CrazySexyCool, helped make it the biggest-selling album by a female pop group in history, moving 7.6 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.
The record's success didn't translate to a financial windfall for the group, however. In July 1995, while TLC was at No. 1 with the third single from CrazySexyCool, "Waterfalls," the group filed for bankruptcy, declaring liabilities of more than $3.5 million. When a settlement was reached in 1996, Billboard called the bankruptcy "eye-opening" and reported that "the numbers reflected the byzantine accounting practices of labels."
TLC released its third album, FanMail, in February 1999, earning a Grammy Award nomination for album of the year and producing two more Hot 100 No. 1s: "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty." It would mark the last album released during Lopes' lifetime. On April 25, 2002, she died at age 30 in a car crash in Honduras. In the wake of the tragedy, Thomas and Watkins released a statement saying they had "truly lost our sister." They have continued to perform as TLC and are working on new music.
A version of this article first appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of Billboard magazine.