No Scrubs
by TLC

Album: Fanmail (1999)
Charted: 3 1

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about men who have nothing going for them, but hit on women just the same, even resorting to hopeless tactics like hollering at women from the passenger seat of their friend's car. The song vaulted the term "scrub" into the popular lexicon, and it became a well-used word to describe a worthless man.
  • Future Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss wrote this with help from producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. Burruss and Cottle were members of the recently disbanded group Xscape, who had a hit in 1993 with "Just Kickin' It," and they had formed their own duo, which they called KAT (Kandi And Tameka). Briggs was an up-and-coming producer at LaFace records, home of TLC, and had written what would become "No Scrubs," but with completely different lyrics. After meeting Briggs through their manager, Burruss and Cottle asked if they could try writing different lyrics to the song, which they then hoped to record.

    Burruss got the "No Scrubs" idea after talking about some of her ex-boyfriends - she and her friends used the word "scrubs" a lot, which was big in Atlanta. She and Cottle finished the new lyrics and took them to Briggs, who instead of putting the song together for KAT, brought it to LaFace, where the execs decided it would be a great song for TLC. Burruss, who had songwriting aspirations but didn't write in Xscape, was hesitant about giving up the song, but knew it was the right thing to do. It worked out well for her, as even though her singing career wound down, she became a popular songwriter, later teaming up with Briggs to write another man-basher: "Bills, Bills, Bills" for Destiny's Child.
  • This was the first single released from Fanmail, the follow-up to TLC's wildly successful second album CrazySexyCool, which sold over 11 million copies. "No Scrubs" kept them in the groove and was a major hit. The song was a no-brainer for radio stations, as it was a fresh sound from an established group that had already made the R&B, Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. A smooth, mid-tempo number with a very memorable title, it found a home on all these formats, as did their next single, "Unpretty."
  • The word "scrub" has developed many uses, including what you do to rid your computer of viruses or remove items from a budget. "Scrubs" are what hospital workers wear, and a show with that name debuted on NBC in 2001.
  • The group Sporty Thievz released a response song from the male perspective called "No Pigeons" that climbed to #12 US in July 1999, three months after "No Scrubs" topped the chart. This renewed the popularity of "No Scrubs" as radio stations played the songs back-to-back. It also put more money in the pockets of the "No Scrubs" songwriters, who were credited on "No Pigeons" because it used the same instrumentation.
  • This song is heavy on the "C" and light on the "T" and "L." It was the first TLC song that Chilli (Rozanda Thomas), sang lead on by herself; T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) did most of their lead vocals to that point. Kevin Briggs is the one who decided Chilli would sing on it, and he worked with her to get the vocal down. He thought her vocal range was right for the track and liked the idea of having her get her first lead. "We had some resistance from the other girls at one point, but we ended up working it out," said Briggs.
  • Part of what makes the song so accessible is that "scrub" is clearly defined in the opening lines:

    A scrub is a guy that think he's fine and is
    Also known as a buster
    Always talkin' about what he wants
    And just sits on his broke ass


    It's also a very useful word that gave women an elegant, compact way of describing these no-good men.
  • This won Grammys for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Group.
  • The futuristic music video, directed by Hype Williams, has the trio performing in space on metallic sets, with multiple wardrobe changes and a dance sequence in front of a TLC logo. The clip won the 1999 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.
  • As was standard procedure for TLC singles, versions were released with and without Left Eye's rap. "Clean" versions were also released, omitting "ass" in the first verse and "ho" in the rap. So, not counting remixes, four versions were available:

    1) Dirty, no rap (3:37)
    This is the one that appears on the album and was used by most radio stations.

    2) Dirty, with rap (3:59)
    Used in the video, which is a little longer because it opens with a title sequence. Most radio stations preferred the shorter version.

    3) Clean, no rap (3:37)
    This was sometimes labelled the "radio version," played by stations with sensitive listeners.

    4) Clean, with rap (3:59)

    By offering all these flavors, the song was amenable to just about any format, from Easy Listening to Hip-Hop (OK, not Country). An instrumental was also included on some of the singles.
  • This song is TLC's biggest seller in the UK, selling 553,200 copies.
  • The cast of Glee performed this on a 2013 episode of the show; this rendition was included on a Season 4 compilation. In 2019, Weezer included it on their covers collection, The Teal Album. They didn't change the gender.
  • The vocal melody in Ed Sheeran's 2017 hit "Shape Of You" bears much resemblance to the one used in this song. When Sheeran sings:

    Girl, you know I want your love
    Your love was handmade for somebody like me


    It's pretty close to:

    No, I don't want no scrubs
    A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me


    It was close enough that Sheeran added the "No Scrubs" songwriters to the credits of "Shape Of You," likely to avoid a lawsuit.

Comments: 14

  • Norman Robinson from Baltimore, Maryland I am sorry, but after listening to this song years later, it sounds like Kandi B. Is singing and if you pay attention Tiny is adding to the background vocals solo parts. Clearly not Chilli singing on this record but the voice of Kandi... Also note Chilli doesn’t sing lead on no other tracks.. this song is clearly the Voice of Kandi And Tiny in the back ground.. Laface records pulled a Milli Vanilli on us.... Kandi B should have 1000% credit and Grammy for this song not TLC
  • Reggie from Atlanta Dave, there is a difference between straight Blues and Rhythm & Blues. TLC are in fact, R&B.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesBertrand - TLC are not R&B, they are commercial soul-pop. Calling TLC R&B is like calling Destiny's Child Heavy Metal. John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf are R&B
  • Bertrand from Paris, FranceThe r&b trio TLC electrified the pop music world with their phenomenal album [b] Crazysexycool [b] released in 1994. Then it was a long 5 year wait for the next installment. Fortunately, [b] Fan Mail [b] was nearly as good as its predecessor. "No Scrubs," the leadoff single, is picture perfect late 1990's r&b.

  • Paul from Savannah, GaI remember when "Silly Ho" was supposed to be the first single off of Fanmail and they played it on the radio a couple times, but then they pushed the album up a few months and this became the first official single
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesBest Rhythm & Blues song?!?! TLC are so NOT Rhythm & Blues!
  • Mandie from Port Royal, Pano girl wants a scrub cuz they aint worth a lick
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesN-Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" was also intended as response to this song (and the many other songs by female R&B artists/singers of that era with lyrics that bash men), putting across the view that males can be the victims in bad relationships as well, just as Sporty Thievez "No Pigeons" also put across the idea that women are equally as egotistic, and just as big chauvinists as men
  • Sum Sum from New Delhi, Indianot a great song. Good to listen once a while
  • P.s. from Ann Arbor, MiThis song may have "popularized" the word scrubs in the suburbs, but it was already an old urban slang word when this song came out.
  • Agnes from London, Englandwell even though unpretty is my favourite i still lov 'no scrubs' because as 'raynyse' said whenever u take a scrub they just walk over u like u don't even exist.To all the young girls out there i'm not tryin 2 say dat don't date guys but just be careful. Not all men are nice to us women becuase they like, it what they could get from us.We need to thank TLC for making this song. Its an advise not a song only.
  • Jonathan from Natchitoches, LaAppeared in Season 1 Episode 18 of Cold Case on CBS. The name of the episode is "Resolutions."
  • Raynyse from Talahasse , FlThis song is one of favorites because TLC is right about having no scrubs. once you have a scrub they just take advantage.So i'm sending a warning to the young who growing, don't be fooled by looks and sending a shout out to T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye who art is in heaven looking on us.
  • Captain Jett from Anytown, United StatesOriginally it was written, "No Shrubs" as an ad jingle for Roundup, but became popular during Mork & Mindy reruns.
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