3D is the fourth studio album by American girl group TLC. It was released by Arista Records on November 12, 2002, in the United States, it was seven months after the death of TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, and at number four on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 143,000 copies sold in its first week of release and was met with positive reviews. The album nearly sold two million in the United States alone. 3D earned TLC two Grammy Award nominations, and the album was certified Platinum by the RIAA in 2002. 3D produced 4 singles. The only three singles to chart were "Girl Talk", peaking at 3 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart; "Hands Up", which peaked at number 7 on the Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart; and "Damaged", which managed to peak at 19 on the US Mainstream Top 40.
During and after the release of FanMail, Lopes made it known to the press on multiple occasions that she felt that she was unable to fully express herself working with TLC and Austin. Her contributions to the songs had been reduced to periodic eight-bar raps, and studio session singers such as Debra Killings often took her place on the background vocals for the group's songs. In its November 28, 1999 issue, Entertainment Weekly ran a letter from Lopes that challenged her group mates to record solo albums and let the fans judge which of the three was the most talented:
"I challenge Tionne 'Player' Watkins (T-Boz) and Rozonda 'Hater' Thomas (Chilli) to an album entitled The Challenge... a 3-CD set that contains three solo albums. Each (album)... will be due to the record label by October 1, 2000... I also challenge producer Dallas 'The Manipulator' Austin to produce all of the material and do it at a fraction of his normal rate. As I think about it, I'm sure LaFace would not mind throwing in a $1.5 million dollar prize for the winner."
T-Boz and Chilli declined to take up the "Challenge", though Lopes always maintained it was a great idea. Things were heated between the ladies for some time, with Thomas speaking out against Lopes, calling her antics "selfish", "evil", and "heartless". TLC then addressed these fights by saying that they were very much like sisters that have their disagreements every now and then; as Lisa stated, "It's deeper than a working relationship. We have feelings for each other, which is why we get so mad at each other. I usually say that you cannot hate someone unless you love them. So, we love each other. That's the problem." The ladies eventually settled the feud, and The Challenge was never followed through. After the conclusion of the successful FanMail tour, the ladies, however, took some time off and pursued personal interests. Lopes was the first to begin recording her solo album, Supernova, however it underperformed overseas, so it was cancelled, and was never released in the United States.
During this time period, it was stated by Thomas she had begun working on a solo project and had realized that rumors of TLC's demise had taken over in the media. It was then that Thomas made a call to LaFace label-head L.A. Reid to discuss working on TLC's fourth studio album. After contacting Watkins, and soon after, Lopes, sessions for 3D had begun in the Fall of 2001. However, soon after recording had begun, sessions came to a halt, as Lopes began work on her second studio album, known as N.I.N.A (New Identity Non Applicable), and as Watkins was hospitalized in January 2002 due to complications stemming from her ongoing battle with sickle-cell anemia, Lopes eventually came to visit Watkins in the hospital and went back to the studio to record raps for 3D. In April 2002, as Watkins' condition improved greatly, Lopes disappeared to Honduras to do missionary work.
On April 25, 2002, Lopes was killed in a car crash, leaving behind material that she had recorded for both N.I.N.A and 3D. She was only 30 years old.
Immediately after Lopes' funeral, Watkins and Thomas decided that they would complete the remainder of their fourth album, to be called 3D, which also featured production from Rodney Jerkins, The Neptunes, Raphael Saadiq, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. The decision was also made that TLC would continue on as a duo after the release and promotion of 3D rather than replace Lopes, and they announced in 2009 that they would possibly begin recording a fifth studio album, but still refused to replace Lopes.
Upon release, 3D received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received an average score of 71, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 14 reviews.Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic praised the album as "one of the best modern soul albums of 2002" and called it "a bittersweet triumph". He found that while 3D "perhaps doesn't blaze trails like their other albums, it never plays it safe and it always satisfies." Andy Battaglia of The A.V. Club wrote that "in spite of a slim body of songs and an occasionally half-finished feel, the group stakes a solid claim to the riches of future-soul with 3D, leaving a distinct stamp on even its weakest material with gorgeous singing built around the understated grace of '60s girl groups."
Billboard magazine found that "with 3D, TLC has crafted a fitting tribute to a departed sister", calling it "a nearly perfect collection." David Browne, writer for Entertainment Weekly, remarked that "thanks to such hired guns as The Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins, TLC have made a better post-tragedy album than expected. 3D is a smorgasbord of modern R&B that ranges from silky to retro." He noted however that the album "still, feels a little incomplete, like much of their work."Rolling Stone writer Barry Walters concluded that "the album isn't the romp it might have been had Lopes survived, but 3D solidly embodies black pop in a year in which it has lacked a center." Dorian Lynskey from Blender felt that "3D 's sheer creative vibrancy is itself a testament to Lopes's live-wire charisma", while Dimitri Ehrlich from Vibe noted that "while the CD is consistently well-produced and performed, the material recorded before Lopes’s death [...] is simply darker, sexier, and angrier."
Offered to TLC, but they rejected it. It was later handed to Mary J. Blige for her fifth album No More Drama. T-Boz later commented on this, saying "It wasn't that I didn't like the song, it was more so that I've already been there and done that."
"Watch the World"/"Us"
The real title is unknown; it was scrapped and completely replaced with "Turntable". A snippet of the first verse was leaked on a studio B-roll recorded in June 2002.
Unreleased and unheard; the original Left Eye rap was heard on ABC'sPrimetime during a TLC interview on November 7, 2002.