The ’90s were an era of “issues.” Crime, poverty and the AIDS epidemic were all major themes in popular culture, and artists weren’t shy about addressing them. One of the most iconic music videos to deal with these themes was TLC‘s 1995 hit “Waterfalls,” which addressed two major problems of the day: drug violence and AIDS.
The third single off TLC’s 1994 sophomore album CrazySexyCool, “Waterfalls” helped keep the all-female R&B/hip-hop group at the top of the charts after their first single,“Creep,” became their first No. 1 hit. Although they were known for their outrageous fashion, Chilli, Left Eye and T-Boz dressed it down a little bit for “Waterfalls” with color-coordinated baggy pants and crop tops. There were serious matters to discuss!
Directed by F. Gary Gray, the “Waterfalls” video played like an after-school special, warning against the dangers of gang wars and unprotected sex. (I’m pretty sure I vowed to stay a virgin forever after watching the guy in the second half waste away.) In the end, to hammer their point home, the girls turned into elemental water spirits(!), an impressive technological feat at the time. The heartstring-pulling jam became the group’s biggest hit, staying at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, winning five(!!!) 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, and proving that it pays to care about the important stuff.
Unfortunately, the women of TLC were plagued by many problems themselves, their chaotic personal lives often threatening to overshadow their music. The group was further shaken when a tragic car accident took the life of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 2002. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas completed their fourth album, but ultimately decided there could be no TLC without Lopes. Nevertheless, “T” and “C” continue to perform together, and they’ve both kept busy with solo albums, charity work and Thomas’ handbag line, “Bags By Chilli.”
+ Watch TLC’s iconic “Waterfalls” below, and remember to stay out of trouble.