It seems the new TLC television biopic should have been titled "Slam Pebbles" rather than "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" as that's all the music group seems to be doing. The surviving members of TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozhanda "Chilli" Thomas (Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in a car crash) have been doing promo rounds for the movie and all they keep focusing on is trashing their former manager, Pebbles, who created the group. One would think that's all the movie is about.
TLC famously had a financial dispute with Pebbles, real name Perri Reid, after she held auditions in Atlanta, Georgia for talent and put the three aforementioned women together. Pebbles named the group and invested her time and money in them after signing the women to her production company Pebbitone. They received a standard recording contract after signing with Pebbitone, who secured the deal with subsidiary label LaFace Records, owned by Pebbles' then husband L.A. Reid and his partner, producer Babyface.
After the group sold millions of CDs, they only made $15,000 each. Pebbles should have done what she had originally stated she set out to do, in directly taking the group to MCA, a label she was signed to as a recording artist. Signing with LaFace, who had a subsidiary deal with Arista, meant another company taking a cut of the profits. Other Laface artists, such as Toni Braxton and Outkast experienced money problems as well. In a subsidiary deal, the intermediary label has to take less money or the artists will financially suffer to some degree.
In TLC's case it was made significantly worse as they had all these expensive music videos (after they left Pebbles), especially "Waterfalls" which cost $2,000,000 (TLC was not Chief Keef, shooting $5 music videos in their living room and that's why he became rich so fast, low overhead). Recording and music video costs come right off the top of revenue generated, before an artist even sees a dime. TLC also had many top notch songwriters/producers charging $50,000 to $200,000 per song. Their projects were not cheap.
TLC in the 1990s
At the time TLC were very young and new to the business. They did not understand how the music industry operates. However, Pebbles stated she was the scapegoat and fall guy for their money woes and in many ways she was, as LaFace and Arista could have done more to grant the group a better compensation package from the start.
However, TLC was quite young and hungry and offered the chance of a lifetime at stardom and they took. What I don't like is the arrogance coming from TLC, especially towards Pebbles, who is now a preacher trying to help others. They are allowed to tell their story, it's free speech, but why be so nasty about it when they previously stated things were resolved.
They pretended to be friends with her as though their problems were in the past, but to promote a movie they are paid for, they are drumming up anger, animosity and controversy for ratings, when they were smiling with her last year and the year before. There is some hypocrisy running in the background from TLC.
Not to mention, had it not been for Pebbles, no one would know who they are. They are not Whitney Houston or Barbara Streisand caliber singers, who would have most likely made it no matter what. They are two girls with nice voices. Let's keep it real. Had it not been for Pebbles and LaFace's clout and connections, the trio (who wouldn't have met) would have easily flopped on most labels.
TLC received the benefit of the top songwriters and producers of the time from their very first CD, which is not the norm in the music industry. They had big budgets/advances from the start, which is also not the norm in the music business. Just stating the facts.
Unless you are a new artist who starts working with or are a newbie producer, who turns out to be the next Babyface, David Foster or Devante Swing, you will be placed with lesser known or new folks to stay on budget, who most likely will not have the best musical skills in the business.
They had a significant amount of help. TLC needs to acknowledge this fact and stop trying to paint a different picture, that it was destiny and solely about them. Their music was explicit and vulgar. Their videos debauched and crude. That wasn't a divine plan as they have implied in interviews. Once again, just stating the facts.
It's amazing what people will attribute to God. Really, I know God didn't tell you to go out there and sing "Take a good look at it, look at it now. It maybe the last time you have a go round. I'll let you touch it if you like to go d*wn. Baby it's yours, if you want it tonight. I'll give you the red light special all through the night."
The whole internet knew what TLC meant. They were singing about sex. That should be stuff done behind closed doors - no need to sing it at us in such terms. Not to mention TLC lyrics like "B***h like me." So, stop with the it-was-divine-destiny. It was an opportunity at fame and fortune and that is all.
Additionally, what were the members of the band doing before that - Watkins was shampooing hair (and there's nothing wrong with that), Chilli was a back-up dancer (which is fine too) and Lopes was homeless (which was sad and tragic and I would never make fun of that). I'm just trying to bring home my point, be humble, as TLC was a group created and funded by others to the tune of millions, which gave three unknown girls a big opportunity. Let's not lose sight of that. Sadly, along the way, there were financial issues.
The music industry is a business (just like a bank, store, investment or insurance company). Production companies and labels invest millions in artists. It is not an entitlement. It's not a right. They don't owe anyone the opportunity or privilege. It is a loan made against future sales that must be repaid. It is in every recording contract known to man.
As a general rule, don't sign a contract if you don't understand it. Don't get involved in a business you have no understanding of, as trouble can erupt from it. In closing, it is regrettable things became so acrimonious, volatile and ugly in the TLC case.
Side Bar: for years there was a story online about Chilli sleeping with Pebbles' husband L.A. Reid during their marriage, as revealed on an Atlanta radio show. Why is no one making reference to that. It needs to be addressed.