Arrested Development frontman helps inmates transcend the cycle of recidivism.
Speech is a multiple Grammy award recipient and founder of the legendary hip hop group Arrested Development. Known for songs such as Tennesse, Mr Wendal, People Everyday and Revolution, hip hop would forever shape his life and provide him a world-wide platform to voice matters of social justice, civil rights, activism and homelessness. These messages, communicated through soaring melodies, energized beats and conscious lyrics, propel audiences and lift their spirits high.
Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1968, the year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In 1976, when he was just eight years old, his mother launched the largest African American newspaper in the state of Wisconsin (The Milwaukee Community Journal). Countless hours of dinner table discussions, highlighting the news of the day, including matters deeply affecting minority communities, would eventually echo as poignant reminders, and ultimately frame Speech’s musical landscape and give birth to some of the most important rhymes of the 90’s, that today are considered to be classic hip hop.
Arrested Development’s Album “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of” has been lauded as one of the great hip hop albums of all time.
The recognition given to Arrested Development includes organizations such as; the NAACP, The National Coalition For The Homeless, The African National Congress (ANC), and The Grammy Foundation. Rolling Stone Magazine bestowed upon them the title of “Band Of The Year in (1992),” VHI named them as one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time, and the Rock’n Roll hall of fame honored smash hit Tennessee by referring to it as one of the ‘500 Songs That Shaped Rock’n Roll’. These accolades and awards have cemented Speech and Arrested Development firmly into the annals of music history.
Twenty-seven years after exploding onto the music scene, Speech and Arrested Development continue to spread music laced with messages of love, hope, justice and equality. They have shared stages with icons such as Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and civil rights leader John Lewis, just to name a few.
Speech’s work with the Kennedy Center initiative called Turnaround Arts, helps children across seventeen states of the USA to tap into their creativity. It is one of the most rewarding and important community services with which he has had the honor to be involved. His feature length documentary called 16 Bars (in which he appears and also served as executive producer), brings to light the many issues facing the incarcerated in the United States of America. The film highlights the desperate need for rehabilitation that is so often missing in the justice system.
Speech is also currently producing an explosive web series entitled “Hoodwinked – The N%#ga Factory” (with over 1 million views to date). The series exposes what Speech considers to be the deeply destructive campaign to demean the perception of Blacks worldwide.
In addition to a very busy schedule, he is a sought-after speaker, who has been fortunate enough to experience life in a way that so few ever have. He brings thoughtful conversation to subjects that are often difficult for some to discuss. He offers hope in areas that sometimes appear hopeless, and he brings truths to the surface, in places where untruths have often prevailed. He has proven himself to be an empowering and thought provoking citizen of the world and in an uncanny way, he’s been able to put a beat and melody to it.
Forty-three years after his mother started the Milwaukee Community Journal, it still enjoys a great weekly readership and an iconic legacy for its service to the community. Speech, as a world-renowned artist, is also very much involved with the publication today, to ensure its place as a beacon to the community. Just as he learned when he was a boy, great knowledge and great ideas can be formed when people come together around a table.