Biography

Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up on two sides of life: the ghetto of Milwaukee (one of the nation’s roughest cities for African Americans) and (Wauwatosa) Milwaukee’s suburbia. Speech learned how to draw from the pains and beauty of both. He would absorb the plights of his people and the retreat of a middle-class black boy in a primarily white neighborhood. He lost his grandmother to a heart attack and his older brother, Terrence Thomas, to an Asthma attack within the same week, and through spirituality, learned to recalibrate his inner anger through dynamic music. To celebrate the lives of those he lost, he coined his sound “life music”. Speech wrote the hit song ‘Tennessee’ as a dedication to his grandmother and brother. In the early 90s, Speech and his mother started the Terrence Thomas Scholarship and to date, the scholarship has raised over one million dollars helping young black students further their educations. 

Speech started and produced the hip-hop group, Arrested Development. Based in Georgia, from humble and rural beginnings, the group became a pioneering force in the music world. Arrested Development received two Grammy Awards (Best New Artists and Best Rap Single 1993) for the album, “3 years, 5 months, and 2 days in the  life of…” Their second album, “Zingalamaduni,” was met with critical acclaim and was also nominated for a Grammy award.  

In 1995, the group disbanded and Speech signed a solo record deal with EMI. His first single “Like Marvin Gaye Said” shot to #1 on the Japanese Tokyo 100 charts for seven consecutive weeks. Speech has released five solo albums since, all of which have spawned Top 10 hit singles in Japan. His albums “1998 Hoopla” and “Spiritual  People” were certified gold. “Spiritual People” was awarded the Best Black Music Album of the year 2000  by the acclaimed ADLIB magazine. Speech supported each album with sold-out tours.  

Speech has also toured as a solo performer with Former US Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Youssou N’dour, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jason Mraz, Hootie and the Blowfish, and The Roots.  

In 2020, Speech partnered with Resonant Pictures and Pipeline Entertainment to release the full-length documentary “16 Bars” where he goes into a maximum security jail to write music with inmates. This stirring documentary won numerous film festival awards and is now available through Lightyear Entertainment on streaming platforms worldwide.

In addition, Speech and Arrested Development have been honored with the following:

  • 5x Grammy nominated, 2x Grammy winner

  • 1992 Best New Artist

  • 1992 Best Rap Performance by a Group “Tennessee”

  • Nominated Best R&B Performance by a Group “People Everyday”

  • Nominated Best Rap Performance by a Group from Spike Lee’s major motion picture Malcolm X ‘Revolution’

  • Nominated Best Rap Performance “Ease my Mind”

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