From Billboard hits to bankruptcy: TLC's slow downfall

OPINION - It's sad that T-Boz has had to file bankruptcy once again. It's even sadder that this seems to be the reality for far too many music artists...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

There wasn’t much sympathy for Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins in the comment section of regarding news of her filing bankruptcy. Posters like BtSquared2 wrote “Sorry. No sympathy points from me. There are people that are somehow making it happen on $11,000 a year and she sees that a MONTH?”

Documents filed in U.S. bankruptcy court last month revealed that the T of TLC owed creditors $768, 642.99, mainly due to mortgages on her $1.2 million house. Her monthly income, according to TMZ, is $11,700 while her expenses total $8, 821.

In addition, it was also noted that her former husband, rapper Mack 10, allegedly owes her $250,000 back child support for their daughter Chase.

Global Grind blamed Mack 10 for her financial woes with the headline “T-Boz Goes Broke Because Mack 10 Is A Deadbeat Dad”. Many of their posters like Shaunda Yvette Lostgyrl-Wyndblew shared the same view as those of’s posters. “It’s sad to hear but $11,000 a month in income is a lot compared to us broke a** people living on unemployment and still making it,” she wrote.

Unfortunately, this is not T-Boz’s first bankruptcy dance. Who could ever forget TLC’s infamous Behind the Music in 1999, which VH1 recently reloaded, where Left Eye, the talented third of the girl group who died tragically in 2002 at the age of 30, attempted to explain the group’s financial troubles?

“This is how a group can sell 10 million records and be broke and everyone get ready to do your math,” Left Eye said. And the math was brutal. In the end, the girls only got about $50,000 a year each in 1993 and 1994 but, to make matters worse, they each owed Pebbitone, their management company run by former R&B artist Pebbles, Perri Reid, who, at the time was married to their label LaFace’s co-owner L.A. Reid.

On the heels of selling 11 million copies of their 1994 album CrazySexyCool, TLC filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3, 1995.

What was even crazier, on January 22, 1998, another hit LaFace artist, Toni Braxton, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Given L.A. Reid’s current stature on Simon Cowell of American Idol fame’s hit FOX show X Factor, it may raise eyebrows that a music biz heavyweight would have two of his biggest acts file such high-profile bankruptcies while under his watch.

Some could argue that Reid’s job is to spot star talent and cultivate it, not to manage their pockets while also noting that Usher, another one of his big acts at LaFace and Arista, never had financial woes to the tune of TLC and Toni Braxton, who filed another bankruptcy last year.

The music industry doesn’t have a great reputation for taking care of its workers. Actually, when it comes to black music artists, brokeness is damn year a cliché. That sad reality fueled a large part of Dreamgirls as well as Cadillac Records. Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye, Peebo Bryson and MC Hammer also went broke. In another telling Behind the Music episode, it was revealed that A Tribe Called Quest barely cleared $30,000 a piece after selling millions of albums. The list is indeed very long.

At some point, it is on the artist but, given the frequency with which this happens in the music industry, something is not right and dramatic changes are needed. With the industry’s penchant for 360 deals, where they literally put their hands in every money-making pot an artist is brewing, it’s unlikely that this dirty aspect of the music industry will end anytime soon.

Even dirtier is the practice of labels, managers and other behind-the-scene personalities taking in publishing rights when, often times, they aren’t even in the studio when a song is created and didn’t add so much as a “the” but, yet, collect millions at the artist’s expense. Sean “Diddy” Combs has long been accused of this practice.

Both T-Boz and Toni Braxton, it should also be highlighted, have suffered medical illnesses, which only exacerbates the problem. A long-time sickle-cell anemia sufferer, T-Boz recently revealed that she was also battling a brain tumor. Braxton announced that she had lupus. Contrary to the running belief that many Americans encounter financial ruin by trying to keep up with the Joneses, medical illness actually bankrupts a significant number of people.

“Bankruptcies due to medical bills increased by nearly 50 percent in a six-year period, from 46 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007,” a 2009 article reported.

Music artists actually don’t have a lot of guarantees that many other people who work traditional jobs have. In rough times, where is their unemployment insurance? Even in buying a house, a music artist often goes through additional hoops when it comes to the amount of money they can put down as well as the extra insurance that is required. And, like all jobs, women probably fare even worse.

It’s sad that T-Boz has had to file bankruptcy once again. It’s even sadder that this seems to be the reality for far too many music artists. With the continuing success of American Idol and now X Factor, it is curious that so many people still see music stardom as their lottery ticket. If there’s one cliché that’s been proven true over and over again, at the end of the day, all that glitters really isn’t gold.