Speech rose to success in the early '90s as the leader of the groundbreaking alternative rap group Arrested Development.
Born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, WI, on October 25, 1968, he was raised primarily in Ripley, TN, before relocating to Georgia in 1987 to attend the Art Institute of Atlanta. There he met fellow student Tim Barnwell, and together they laid the foundations for Arrested Development's 1988 formation; adopting the stage name Speech, Thomas' lyrics reflected a positive, socially conscious, and deeply spiritual world-view far removed from the negative stereotypes of the burgeoning gangsta rap movement, while the group's music served up a rootsy, organic fusion of hip-hop, soul, funk, and blues. Arrested Development's 1992 debut, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of..., was among the year's most critically and commercially well-received efforts, launching the hits "Tennessee" and "Everyday People," earning several Grammys and topping a number of year-end music-writers' polls. After 1994's Zingalamaduni fell victim to the sophomore slump, however, Speech disbanded Arrested Development and mounted a solo career, debuting in 1996 with a self-titled LP on Capitol; Hoopla, his first release for new label TVT, followed three years later. A period of rest gave Speech the opportunity to become a father and get back in touch with his family, allowing him to take time to reflect on his life and prepare for his next album. The result of this downtime was Spiritual People, a record filled with positive messages and a sense of unity that brought to mind his days with Arrested Development. Three years later he returned with Vagabond. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi