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Green Festival Speakers

SPEECH of Arrested Development


Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The youngest of parents Robert ; Patricia Thomas. He grew up on two sides of life: the ghetto of Milwaukee (one of the nations 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 yet the retreat of middle class blacks to primarily white neighborhoods. Speech experienced hardcore racism as a young boy. He also lost his grandmother to a heart attack and his older brother, Terrence Thomas to an Asthma attack all within the same week. Through Gods help, he ultimately learned how to recalibrate his inner anger to constructive and dynamic music. To celebrate the lives of those he lost. Speech wrote Tennessee as a dedication to his family. He and his mother started the Terrence Thomas Scholarship dedicated to his brother, that even today is helping many young black students further their educations.

With this background, Speech started the music group, Arrested Development. The group is based in Georgia, from humble and rural beginnings; they became a pioneering force in the music world. Arrested Development won two Grammy Awards (Best new artists ; Best rap single 1993) with songs that Speech wrote and produced from the album, 3 years, 5 months and 2 days in the life of... They released a second, Zingalamaduni which was met with critical acclaim and was nominated for another Grammy award. After some internal strife, the group went on hiatus in 1995.

Immediately after that, Speech shed the group atmosphere ; buried himself in experimental sounds. His first single Like Marvin Gaye Said was #1 on the Japanese Tokio 100 charts for 7 weeks straight! That was the true beginning of Speech as a solo artist.

Speech toured with Vice President Al Gore and Hillary Clinton during the Clinton reelection campaign, plus tours with Hootie ; the Blowfish, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Youssou N'dour, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Jason Mraz, and The Roots.

The musical side of Speech kept him producing and writing songs for progressive groups like Zap Mama, (Spike Lee's) Malcolm X soundtrack, Paramount pictures Boomerang starring Eddie Murphy, other movies like Bebe's Kids, Warriors of Virtue, Whipped and Michael Jordan's to the Max (An IMAX production).

Speech has released 5 solo albums since 1996 all of which have spawned Top 10 hit singles. His album Spiritual People released in 2000 was certified Gold 3 months of its release. It was also awarded the Best black music album of the year 2000 by ADLIB magazine. Speech supported each album with sold out tours and intense promotional schedules.

In 2006 Speech toured the U.S. with Tre' Hardson (Pharcyde), and released The Vagabond (Bluhammock records). That album won Best Hip Hop album of 2006. Speech says, I dont really yearn for fame, as much as for artistic integrity. I want someone to relate to me and me to them. I want my music to bring me intimate moments with those that can relate to where Im at in life.

His present home is in Fayetteville, Georgia where Speech owns Vagabond Records ; Tapes which released Since The Last Time (Arrested Development's first U.S. album in 12 years) andThe Grown Folks Table the newest Speech solo album. Speechs says, Grown Folks Table is a radical stylistic departure from my past albums. It shows more a street side and its as honest and clever as anything Ive ever done to date. Its hip hop, that has elements of what Jesus, the streets, and what my own experiences have taught me.

Speech continues to do side projects like 3 FOOT ICON (with Kyle Hollingsworth from String Cheese Incident, Chief Xcel of Blackalicious. On occasion Speech has even been the DJ for legendary bass player, Victor Wooten.

Look for new collaborations of Speech cowriting with (UK Hip Hop legend) Ty, (UK world music masters) 1 Giant Leap, (Portland hip hop maestro) Braille, (Japan success) Steph Pockets, (Japanese MCs) WISE ; Jamil, (World music) Ulali from India, (European legend) Nenah Cherry, (Japanese) Cradle Orchrestra and many others.

Speech became an ordained minister with the Churches of Christ in 2005. He temporarily stepped down in 2009 to work on his personal life. Speech says, My most proud achievement is my marriage to Yolanda, (we've been together over 17 years), our two children Jahi, Zoe Thomas and my faith in Jesus, which is my biggest strength ; guidance.