[Editor’s Note: In his column, award-winning goofball Shea Serrano writes about his life and times.]
On Monday night I watched the movie about TLC, the most important all-girl rap group of all-time. It came on VH1. I was excited.
TLC was all over radio when I was growing up. They helped, in part, to shape my existence. Surely the most player thing I ever did was sing “Red Light Special” to a girl while sitting at my family’s kitchen table on the house phone hoping no one else in the family would hear me. That’s a little thing called being in love.
Three things about that:
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1. “Red Light Special” came out in 1995. That means I was 14. That means while I was singing this I weighed about 80 pounds. Can you imagine an 80 pound dude singing to some girl about giving her the red light special all through the night? Gross, gross, gross. How’d that girl let me get away with that shit? (Oh that’s right. Because she was SUPER ugly, is how. 8th grade wasn’t so great for me.)
2. I’m extra disappointed that my sons won’t ever get to talk to a girl on the house phone. They’ll probably be snapchatting their penises by the third grade. I just have the fondest memories of telling girls things like, “Hey, yeah, but just call me on the house phone. My dad’ll answer. He’s cool. But if my mom answers then hang up. Like, FOR REAL. Hang up immediately.” #RIPtheHousePhone
3. While TLC was popular in San Antonio where I grew up, more popular was this awful brand of music called freestyle. It was like house music, but an earlier version. I knew in my bones that it was the worst, but that synthy nonsense called to me. We used to go to these quinceaneras and they’d play it and we’d dance battle other bros. That was a thing that we actually did. It was very much like You Got Served, except minus all of the cool.
Okay, but anyway. So the movie is now starting.
0:01: T-Boz, Left Eye and some very scraggily looking girl are auditioning right now for the group. I’ve never auditioned for anything. I wonder what that feels like. Probably hella nervous. I’ve tried out for basketball teams, but that was easy though. Where I grew up, it was basically all Mexicans. Have you ever been to a basketball tryout for an all Mexican team? The coach walks in, scans the nine guys sitting in the bleachers, two of whom are overweight and one who just came because his friend came, purses his lips, shakes his head, then concludes, “Congratulations. You all made it.” Blam-o.
0:02: Dang. Left Eye’s dad just died. Sucks, sucks, sucks. “Congrats, you just had a great audition. Oh, also, but your dad is dead now.” The universe is a cold motherfucker sometimes.
0:08: Oh snap! Cole from Martin is playing LA Reid. Ahahahahahahaha. Love. I hope Tommy is here somewhere too. Maybe he’ll play Andre Rison???
0:09: Andre Rison, FYI, is the receiver for the Atlanta Falcons that Left Eye dated. She set his house on fire after she caught him cheating. I don’t know. We’ll see when we get there, I guess.
0:10: Malibooyah. TLC (they got C from some backup dancer audition) just signed with Pebbles. They ask her how much they’re going to be getting paid. Answer: $25 per week. Pebbles is a true player.
0:17: The group is rehearsing. Pebbles sees Chili making eyes at Dallas Austin, the producer for a whole bunch of hits for the group. She gives a speech about how nobody respects a “loose woman.” Three things:
1. You should never trust a guy whose first name is a city. Teen Wolf taught me that shit. A guy named after two cities? That’s the fucking devil right there. Stay away from a guy named Dallas Austin same as you’d stay away from a guy named Hitler Hitler.
2. Pebbles giving a speech about integrity is like the guy that founded Worldstar Hip-Hop giving a speech on class.
3. For the record, I would like to say that men have a very specific appreciation for loose women. So just go ahead and do you, loose women. You are loved.
0:20: Oh snap. Chili and Dallas Austin are kissing. This can only mean…
0:23: Malibooyah. Chili’s pregnant. Fuckin’ Hitler Hitler, bro. He got his claws (and penis, if we’re being literal) in her. And that can only mean…
0:28: Malibooyah malibooyah. Chili’s getting an abortion. Heartbreaking. Poor girl. That seems like a daunting road to walk down, particularly on $25 per week.
0:30: When Left Eye and T-Boz see Chili post-abortion, they talk to her and console her and whatnot and then Left Eye assures her, “We’re gonna make this one count.” WTF. YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE WHAT COUNT, LEFT EYE? Because it sounds a lot like you’re saying you’re going to make this aborted baby count. This is too much. I already need a break.
0:37: IT’S THE VIDEO FOR “AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG”!!! You know, I actually saw TLC perform in San Antonio as a kid. It was one of those summer jam radio show things that happen. Naughty By Nature were there too. And so was the rapper Paperboy who came onstage with a three-foot-long joint. Oh to be in the sixth grade again.
0:39: They’re on a big tour.
0:40: They’re getting very famous.
0:42: Pebbles, where’s our money?
0:44: T-Boz vs. Sickle Cell. Dudes, T-Boz is a fucking soldier. She’s staring sickle cell down like a champ. I took off work once for two days because I sneezed really hard. If I ever have a doctor tell me that I have any sort of real sickness I’m going to just set myself right the fuck on fire then and there.
0:53: Oh shit. Hahahahahahahahaha. TLC sold a million records, they asked Pebbles why they hadn’t gotten any money, then Pebbles was like, “Well…but wait, because there’s this,” and then showed them all Toyotas she had for them. Hahahaha. “Congrats on selling a million albums, girls! Now hop your dumb asses in this Rav4!” Pebbles is the best.
0:57: Pebbles is fired. TLC has had enough. They’re still under the same contract though, which I guess they didn’t really think about. Firing Pebbles but not talking about the contract seems a lot like realizing your face is on fire and just throwing away all the lighters in your house. Your face is still on fire, bro.
1:03: OH SHIT LEFT EYE JUST BUSTED A BOTTLE OVER SOME DUDE’S HEAD JUST BECAUSE. HOW DID WE GET HERE? I BLINKED AND LEFT EYE IS YOUNG TUPAC.
1:06: And there’s Andre Rison. It’s not Tommy. 🙁
1:17: Booyah. Left Eye just burned down Rison’s house. FYI: I think that burning down someone’s house is definitely an OK thing to do if that person cheats on you. I’m setting all kind of shit on fire if my wife cheats on me.
1:19: Ay, but for real: Lil Mama is basically perfect as Left Eye. It’s really very unbelievable. She did a lot to unravel her everything with that Jay-Z stage thing, but this might bring her back from Permanent Punchline status. Great job. Chicken noodle soup and soda for everyone!
1:21: The “Waterfalls” video.
1:23: I kind of wish that Left Eye had spelled her last name as “Lopez” instead of “Lopes” because then Mexicans could have claimed. Can you even imagine a team in the ’90s with Selena AND 1/3 of TLC?!?! We’d have won for sure.
1:26: The “Creep” video.
1:28: “We’re broke.” Dang. These fools sold 10 million albums and made $15,000 each. Amazing.
1:29: Ahahahaha. They got a bunch of their girlfriends and went to the record label’s office and just started snatching shit off the walls because they wanted their money. That’s dope.
T-Boz: So what should we do? Because we should have, like, several million dollars already and the only thing we have are these goddamn Rav4s.
Left Eye: Um… oh! I know. Let’s take shit off the walls!
Left Eye was the dopest.
1:32: The girls got themselves a new manager. He’s a white dude. And he says he’ll get them $50 million in a year. Gotta love a story with a good White Savior angle. All of a sudden this is like Avatar except but with R&B and rap. Love.
1:42: Chili just broke up with Hitler Hitler. Smart. And it only took, like, six years or something for her to figure it out.
1:43: Oh great. Now Left Eye is dating a dude named Larry. Larry will definitely be trouble. I know this because Larry is wearing a muscle shirt and has braids. That’s a little thing called foreshadowing, bro. I hope the White Savior can swoop in in time and save poor Left Eye.
1:46: OH MY GOD THE “NO SCRUBS” VIDEO I’LL BE RIGHT BACK I’M ABOUT TO DO ALL THE DANCE MOVES.
1:55: Left Eye wants to record her solo album (with Master P, bro!), which would’ve prevented her from fulfilling her contractual obligations with TLC. She’s like, “I need to do this solo album.” She’s very adamant about it. It NEEDS to happen. Fuck the group. But then the T and C and The White Savior are like, “Come on…”
They were offered 25 million to do some shows overseas and Left Eye is like, “Nah, I need to go to Honduras” and then everyone is like, “OK” and then that’s it.
1:57: T-Boz is pregnant!
2:05: Left Eye’s solo album bombed.
2:11: Cut to Left Eye in Honduras teary-eyed STARING AT A WATERFALL (getting a little ham-fisted here) and then…
2:15: Left Eye is dead. Car crash. Dang. Totally expected. Still sad. Movie over. Video montage of the real group members. Truth: This movie is actually fun and entertaining, though I’m not entirely sure if that’s because it’s good or because nostalgia is always romantic. Either way, I’m definitely getting a Left Eye tattoo now.