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TLC makes every ‘CrazySexyCool’ show feel like ‘a big old backyard boogie’

T-Boz and Chilli come to Tinley Park as part of a national tour to commemorate their hit sophomore album, which touted messages of female empowerment and safe sex and was certified diamond.

TLC members Chilli (left) and T-Boz (right) sit in classic 90s fits with a futuristic twist to promote their 2021 national tour, which celebrates their hit sophomore album “CrazySexyCool.” TLC headlines the Chicago Hollywood Amphitheater on Sep. 15.
TLC headlines the Chicago Hollywood Amphitheater on Sep. 15.
Dennis Leupold

The ’90s are making a comeback, and it’s crazy, sexy and cool because TLC is coming to Tinley Park as part of a national tour to commemorate the girl group’s hit sophomore album.

“This is our most iconic album, so I believe it is the one to be celebrated,” Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins said of the group’s 1994 studio release “CrazySexyCool.” “It was something that had so much good music, that made people feel so good. ... Timing is everything. So, it couldn’t be even more perfect timing, after the [worst of the] pandemic, when everybody wants to get out and party. We wanted it to feel like a big old backyard boogie, where we were just all partying together.”

TLC’s show here will be one of 18 the group will perform on the trek, joined by Bone Thugs N’ Harmony and surprise special guests throughout.

Hailing from Atlanta, members T-Boz and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas said their hope for this tour is to remind women to respect themselves, be proud of who they are and live their life the way they want to. Female empowerment has always been a message the group emphasized, most recognized in hit single “No Scrubs.”

In all their touring and projects since Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes passed away in 2002 following a car crash, T-Boz and Chilli have remained loyal to the late rapper, never adding a new member or changing their name.

“We grew up together and we went through life together, all three of us,” T-Boz said. “Even if physically only one of us is standing there, we all represent one another. Unfortunately, we lost our sister. But, we’re still TLC. So in every last, single thing we do, no matter what that is, we will always rep her and you will always feel her presence, especially in concert.”

Added Chilli, “She can’t be replaced, because no one could fill those shoes. I hate with a capital H when people are on social media and they say, ‘Well, why don’t they just call it TC?’ When you work hard for something and you build something, you just don’t throw it away or change it because circumstances have changed. You move on, find a new normal and make it work.”

TLC was the first female group to receive a diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America — in 2019 for the “CrazySexyCool” album, commemorating sales of more than 10 million copies. That’s a huge feat considering there weren’t streaming platforms in the group’s heyday.

As the best-selling American girl group of all time (that’s 85 million records sold worldwide), TLC is known for smooth, slinky R&B, killer dance moves and iconic fashion — see: skintight crop tops and baggy wide leg pants. Perhaps what’s more remarkable about the singers’ legacy is that they weren’t afraid to speak their minds, even if it got them into trouble. They raised awareness about significant, albeit controversial, social issues on the national and even global stage, from the AIDS epidemic to sexism to unsafe sex to drug abuse.

“I want us to be remembered for the things that we stood for, the three strong women that we are, that we stood for what we believed in,” T-Boz said. “And I always want people to recognize that no matter what issues came between us, we never broke up. I think we’re about the only girl group who just never broke up, ever. And most importantly, our lyrical content had no color and no age.”

TLC symbolize what it means to be strong Black women in a world that so often pits them against each other. Their music lives on in artists like Beyoncé and Chloe x Halle.

T-Boz fondly remembered the trips she and her grandfather, who lived in Chicago Heights, used to take to pizza parlors in the city. Chilli remembered the iconic Chicago Mix of Garrett’s popcorn, which made her sick on a flight back to California.

“It’s sick — it’s addictive,” Chilli said. “I’m glad I don’t live in Chicago because I would be a hot mess with that combination of caramel and cheese in my stomach every day.”

Today, the two artists tour and make appearances while retaining ownership of their income, after recorded accounts of exploitation under previous management.

On the horizon is a two-hour A&E documentary, scheduled to release late 2022, chronicling TLC’s journey from the ’90s to today and featuring interviews from T-Boz and Chilli.