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20 Years of TLC's 'Creep': T-Boz Shares the No. 1 Song's Inspiration

TLC, 1995.
Tim Roney/Getty Images

TLC photographed in 1995.

The guy who inspired the smash single still doesn't know it's about him, says the group's Tionne Watkins.

TLC had a handful of early 90's hits, from "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" to "What About Your Friends" to "Baby-Baby-Baby," before releasing "Creep" in 1994. Yet the lead single from sophomore album CrazySexyCool became the R&B trio's first ubiquitous smash and No. 1 single on Billboard Hot 100; spending four weeks at the chart's summit, "Creep" stepped down from No. 1 in February 1995, but was eventually followed by an even bigger TLC hit, "Waterfalls," which was No. 1 for seven weeks later that year.

Twenty years after "Creep's" historic chart run, the group's Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins spoke to Billboard about the personal situation that inspired the smash hit, which chronicles a female who is sick of her boyfriend's cheating and decides to give him a taste of his own medicine.

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"'Creep,' unfortunately, was one of my true stories," T-Boz says with a laugh. "You're with a guy and he's not showing you attention, so another guy comes along and you're like, 'Hey, if you were where you were supposed to be, he couldn't be showing me attention right now!' I was in the middle of this drama, because the other guy was [my boyfriend's] friend, and my boyfriend was just not getting it together."

T-Boz shared her relationship woes with producer-songwriter Dallas Austin, whom she grew up with in Atlanta, and Austin in turn penned a TLC song, "Creep," that he thought T-Boz would be perfect to lead. T-Boz says that Antonio "L.A." Reid, who had co-founded TLC's label LaFace Records, "flipped out" when he first heard "Creep," and the decision was made to name the horn-inflected soul track CrazySexyCool's first single.

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So does T-Boz's lame boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) know that he inspired a No. 1 hit? "No, he doesn't know," says T-Boz. "People get mad sometimes -- my ex-boyfriend that inspired me to write 'Unpretty' was like, 'Okay, so you have to be dogging me out again?'"

But T-Boz makes Billboard a promise about the "Creep" creep: "You know what? When I see him, I'm gonna be like, 'Guess what -- this song was about you,'" she says. "People can relate to when a person is not showing you attention, and it's easy when somebody [else] is nice and doing the things you want them to do, to make you gravitate toward them. That's the inspiration behind it."

This summer, TLC will join New Kids on the Block and Nelly on a tour that kicks off May 1 in Las Vegas. T-Boz and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas will also release a new album of TLC material following a successful Kickstarter campaign.