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2x Grammy Award Winning founder and lead singer of the 4X PLATINUM hip-hop collective ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
Known for consistently pushing the artistic and social envelope, Speech’s keynote mixed with a musical performance makes for an experience.
Speech Thomas's 2024 biography
Brave leaders come about in all shapes and sizes, but most importantly with voices that find a way to be heard in a way that transforms others. Speech Thomas is a shining example of someone who broke the mold and boldly embraced a path that many would not take. Growing up in Milwaukee, one of the most statistically difficult places for black youth, Speech began “going against the grain,” allowing his challenges to fuel his positive impact. Speech focused on that spirit as he and his bandmates took Arrested Development from humble and rural beginnings in Georgia, to becoming a pioneering force in the music world. Pushing against all trends at the time, their vulnerable and uplifting song “Tennessee” became their first hit single as well as being awarded BEST RAP SONG at the Grammys and was named one of the “500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today, he uses that same spirit to help audiences understand how to carve their own path of Brave Leadership in business and life.
Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He 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, he 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 nineties, Speech and his mother started the Terrence Thomas Scholarship and to date, the scholarship has raised over a million dollars helping young black students further their educations.
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 7 consecutive weeks. Speech has released 5 solo albums since, all of which have spawned Top 10 hit singles in Japan. His albums “1998 Hoopla” and “Spiritual People” (2000) were certified gold, while “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 the United States Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Youssou N’dour, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jason Mraz, Hootie & the Blowfish, and The Roots.
In 2020 Speech partnered with Resonant Pictures and Pipeline Entertainment to release the full-length documentary “16 Bars” where Speech goes into a maximum-security jail to write music with inmates. This stirring documentary has won numerous film festival awards and is now available through Lightyear Entertainment on streaming platforms worldwide.
Speech continues to change lives through his keynotes and music.
Speech Thomas's 2024 speaking fees
- United States
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