Feminist Song Case Study #3: TLC’s ‘Hat 2 Da Back’

Although keeping these studies within the 21st century was an unspoken goal, when serendipity enters the equation they can dip into the more distant past. So, when I heard Chilli acknowledge she considers TLC feminist in a recent interview promoting her reality show, they had to be highlighted here. (She also digresses about how men write so many songs, including feminist ones. We won't go there for now but I'd be remiss to overlook the comment.) Maybe more than any of the albums that followed, Ooooooohhh...On The TLC Tip focused on women power. Songs like "His Story," "Bad By Myself" and "Depend On Myself" were all about affirming control. And all would be worth highlighting. That said, let's take a look at "Hat 2 Da Back."

Those of us in the know recognize that TLC have considered themselves feminists for a long while, so Chilli's comments aren't a shock. But in listening to "Hat 2 Da Back" again, considering what they were directly responding to--people judging their femininity by their clothes--it is really confrontational. Having burst onto the New Jill scene with a song about not playing coy when it comes to getting some, "Hat 2 Da Back" served as an appropriate final single.

A major portion of the group's personality as a group hinged on outspoken defiance. They could be wearing the baggiest, loudest clothes with the most outlandish accessories, be aggressive socially and sexually and not be compensating for anything. This song proclaimed that it was not a compromise to their respective womanhoods to dress how they pleased.
"Hat 2 Da Back" was an important moment in the diversification of the New Jill girl groups of the nineties. While there were similar self-affirming, power anthems coming from groups like En Vogue, they were also couched in a more typically feminine presentation. And TLC would probably argue there's nothing wrong with that. They were calling attention to the fact that both femininity and sexiness are subjective and that it is a woman's prerogative about how she embodies both. It was and is an empowering statement.

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3 Responses

  1. TLC was sexy as hell in all them clothes. Just YouTube they're performance at the Aplloa when they did "WBYF" & "Baby Baby Baby."

  2. TLC was and probably always will be the epitome of "feminist' when it comes to R&B music. They were on the "girl power" stuff waaaay before the Spice Girls made the term commonplace. They were the girls who weren't afraid to voice their opinions, they were never coy in any form, all the while being funny, goofy, empowering, clever, and undeniably sexy.
    I was just thinking earlier today about how many artists today, assimilate and in doing so, lose their pizazz. TLC was anti-assimilation from the get go, so they had a spark that just isn't around alot in today's R&B/hiphop.
    As a girl of all but 8 yrs old when Hat 2 Da Back was released, TLC's whole quirkiness mixed with meaningful content just hit the spot for me.
    "Let me be me for me and not what I'm supposed to be."
    Songs like this one and many others throughout their career stand as a testament as to why TLC may arguably be the most influential, daring, and legendary of girl groups in recent memory.

  3. I love TLC growing up in the 90's. I had the first and second album. They were fun and had some good messages. I was very much 11 or 12 and "Hat 2 Da Back" I think representing them saying that even though they prefer that particular style, doesn't mean that they are any less than a woman. They had songs like "What About Your Friends" and "Ain't 2 Proud to Beg" as songs that were not screaming feminist I think. I really miss that in music. Where people respect all styles and understood the messages being shown in the music.