It’s been 20 years since TLC released their groundbreaking “No Scrubs” and aside from a few lines that haven’t aged well (most 20-somethings still live at home with their momma), the song is just as much a jam in 2019. The Atlanta-based hip hop trio made up of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas had already experienced a huge amount of success on the charts thanks to their 1994 album CrazySexyCool, but with “No Scrubs” the group made history by changing language with their feminist anthem.
TLC released “No Scrubs” three weeks before dropping their highly anticipated third studio album FanMail. The lead single quickly shot up the charts and continues to be one of the most defining moments in music for the ’90s. Twenty years later and we still don’t want “No Scrubs.”
To celebrate the anniversary of the iconic hip hop and R&B single, we’re looking at 10 things you may not know about “No Scrubs.” Oh yes son, we’re talking to you.
Previous to the release of “No Scrubs,” lead vocals had always been performed by T-Boz. The song ushered in a new era for TLC in more ways than just Chilli’s vocals, with “No Scrubs,” a song about women rejecting men who don’t treat them with respect, acting as a catalyst for TLC to regain control over their career.
The single version of TLC’s “No Scrubs” includes a rap verse by Left Eye, but the rapper does not appear on the album version of the song. The label decided to release two different versions in order to double the amount of radio play, with the album version featured on adult contemporary stations that did not play rap music. One of the first songs to release two versions of a song with and without the rap verse, “No Scrubs” set a precedent for the next decade as rap and hip hop became more mainstream.
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Ed Sheeran’s huge 2017 single “Shape of You” took inspiration from TLC’s “No Scrubs” so much that the English singer credited the original writers on his track. It was a real non-scrub move.
Sporty Thievz took offense to what they saw as TLC’s song about bashing men and came back with their own response. It was a real scrub move.
“No Scrubs” was written by Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs and former Xscape members Kandi Burruss and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle. Kandi and Tiny had originally intended to keep the song for themselves, but with no record deal in place and no plans to release the single, they agreed to give it to fellow Atlanta artists TLC. The trio won a Grammy for their work on the song and Kandi and She’kspere went on to help craft the sound for another girl group by writing Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills,” which earned two Grammy nominations.
TLC’s video for “No Scrubs” was one of the most defining visuals of the late ’90s. The sci-fi spaceship-themed video took home the coveted MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video in 1999, beating out Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, who were both at the height of their popularity.
In the 20 years since been released, “No Scrubs” has thankfully never really gone away. A favourite for artists in the rock, pop, country, hip hop, and R&B world, it’s been covered by Kelly Clarkson, Kacey Musgraves, Lisa Loeb, Incubus, and blink-182. Most recently, Weezer released their Teal album and included their own version of “No Scrubs,” which TLC group member Chilli approved.
Before releasing FanMail, TLC were forced to declare bankruptcy. With one of the worst record deals in music history with Pebbitone Records, the artists had sold millions of copies of their breakthrough album CrazySexyCool and had seen almost no money from it. Thanks to a new deal and the huge success of “No Scrubs,” TLC went on to become the best-selling American girl group of all time and actually got some money out of it.
Though two decades old, “No Scrubs” boasts over 300 million streams on Spotify and 146 million views on YouTube. Its Hype Williams-directed music video continues to influence the genre, with artists like Lights, Grimes, Zayn, and Janelle Monae releasing their own space-age music videos that can be traced back to “No Scrubs.”
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Twenty years later, they still don’t want no scrubs.
— TLC (@OfficialTLC) June 6, 2017