An Oral History of TLC's 'No Scrubs'

A in-depth look back on the song's 25th anniversary

Screen Shot 2024 01 30 at 7.28.17 PM 4 e1706661391802
LaFace/Arista Records

Has it really been twenty-five years since TLC called out all the guys that were trying to holla while sitting on the passenger's side of their best-friend's ride? Has it really been twenty-five years Lisa 'Lefteye' Lopez delivered one of the most intelligent rejections in history when she told a guy if he "couldn't spatially expand her horizons, then that left him in a class with scrubs" (damn). Has it really been twenty-five years since the massive eye roll that was "No Pigeons?" Apparently it has indeed been that long since today officially marks twenty-five years since the track was released as the lead single from group's third album FanMail. That means...we're entering the FanMail 25 commemoration era where we'll be taking a deeper look into the track in celebration of its a monumental birthday. We've already starting doing with this songs and albums that were released at the tail end of 1998 such as Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" and her respective debut album, now it's time to deep dive into the oral history of TLC's 'No Scrubs'—one of if not the biggest song of 1999.

In this deep dive, we'll be reflecting on the events leading up to the song being released, the success the single spawned, the backlash that came with it, the futuristic music video, and the super dope performances that deserve to be spotlighted once again. Let's buckle up and head back to 1999 people.

RELATED: The Top 30 Christina Aguilera Songs of All Time

The Lead Up

GettyImages 50380487 e1682604518638
Getty Images

We aren't going to deep dive too much into the CrazySexyCool era because that album is going to turn 30 in November and guess what we'll be doing? A deep dive. For now, however, we'll give you a quick rundown of the accolades TLC nabbed during this time as the album reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 (it remained on the chart for over two years), has been awarded diamond status (which made TLC the first girl group to ever have a diamond record), and has since become the best-selling album by an American girl group. If you are a TLC fan, then you already know this era was one of the most interesting and dynamic ever produced by a group (not just a group), but we will get to that in...November.

The Beginning of the FanMail Era

Screen Shot 2024 01 30 at 6.17.30 PM
LaFace/Arista Records

We also aren't going to be doing too much of a deep dive into the FanMail era because the anniversary of the actual album itself was released on February 23, 1999, and we're going to be covering the record in it's entirety. While not quite as "dramatic" as the CrazySexyCool era, FanMail did have its "technical difficulties" so to speak, but like its predecessor, those technical difficulties have only further contributed to the brilliance and longevity of the record. The one thing we will say is this—TLC is a group that has never shied away, sugarcoated, pretended, or faked—if they were getting along, you knew it. And if there were troubles going on—well...they didn't hide that either, and their transparency is something I've alway loved about them. More to come on that though. Back to "No Scrubs,"

The Making of "No Scrubs"

The Music Video

The Success

Screen Shot 2024 01 30 at 6.48.55 PM
LaFace/Arista Records

Let's rewind back to I guess what we have no other choice but to now refer to as the "good ole days." Before the streaming era a song would not only get a radio release, but the single itself would also be released as a physical copy in stores. Meaning that the success of said single wouldn't just be dependent on how many spins it got, but also how many people actually went and physically picked up the record. Off topic but slightly on, I personally (just my opinion) hold sales released prior to the streaming era in a higher regard because physically obtaining music was not nearly as easy as just tapping a couple of buttons on your phone. You had to actually go and make a trip to the record store (and find another one if what you wanted was sold out), and sometimes you even had to wait in long lines on release day to get the record you wanted.

Not only that, but prior to let's just say the early to mid-2000s (my timeline could be off here), newly-released music was pretty much only sold in record stores. So it wasn't just a matter of being able to find a new release at your local Walmart/Target, you actually had to go to a music store for the most part. I'm doing all of this ranting just to say that "No Scrubs" wasn't released in a physical form until late March 1999. After that, it was only about ten days until reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Backlash

The 1999 VMA's

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down