Many music lovers cannot think about the 1990s without hearing one of TLC's many hit songs in their heads. TLC formed in the early 1990s with Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, per AllMusic. The trio quickly rose to fame with their song "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," on their first album, "Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip."
Their next album, "CrazySexyCool," came out in 1994 and featured some of their most popular songs, "Creep," "Waterfalls," and "Diggin' On You." The wildly popular album earned TLC their first Grammy wins for best R&B album, with "Creep" earning them an award for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals, per IMDb.
As reported by BET, "CrazySexyCool" sold over 15 million records and the group was at the height of its success. However, all members of TLC declared bankruptcy in 1995, with over $3.5 million in debt. How did such a successful girl group making millions go broke?
Fans were shocked when the multi-million-selling group, TLC, declared bankruptcy after "CrazySexyCool." Following their Grammy win in 1996, Rozonda "Chili" Thomas announced that despite selling "10 million albums worldwide," they were "broke as broke can be." The group claimed that their labels LaFace Records and Arista Records were conning them out of major dough, per Mirror. According to TLC, expenses such as travel, hotel stays, and music videos were taken out of their paycheck, leaving them with less than $50,000 a year. Additionally, they were receiving a paltry 56 cents per album.
Amid their money issues, Lopes was dating Atlanta Falcons player Andre Rison at the time and after an explosive fight, she burned his house down, XXL reported. The rapper was charged with arson and released on $75,000 bail. While she wasn't sentenced to jail, she checked herself into rehab and was given five years probation, and ended up paying $10,000 in fines. Watkins also spent a lot of money battling sickle cell anemia, which contributed to her debt.
TLC managed to get out of their contract with their manager Perri "Pebbles" Reid and negotiated a new deal with LaFace Records, which took two years, per Grunge. They eventually released their third album, "FanMail" in 1999, but that didn't come without its issues as well.
TLC's next album, FanMail" went multiplatinum, but that didn't stop the band's problems. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins claimed Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes was causing issues within the group and even quit ahead of recording "FanMail." Following the accusations, Lopes threw down the gauntlet. "I challenge Tionne 'Player' Watkins and Rozonda 'Hater' Thomas to an album entitled 'The Challenge,' a 3 CD set [consisting of] three solo albums," she declared. She suggested the winner would be determined by Billboard and be given $1.5 million by LaFace Records.
In response to Lopes' proposal, Thomas and Watkins stated, "We think it'd be best to paraphrase the great poet Iyanla Vanzant.... 'At a time when unity is so desperately needed it is significantly lacking.... Unity does not mean we will all believe in or do the same things. It means we will agree to do something without battling over how and why."'
"FanMail" was the last finished studio album for all three members of TLC before Lopes tragically died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002, per CNN. Despite their issues, Thomas and Watkins remember their bandmate with love. "She was our sister, you know? And no matter what we went through, we're sisters. You know sisters argue, and they kiss and make up and that's just how our relationship was ...Through us, people will always remember Lisa," Thomas declared.