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Inglewood police seek motive in slaying of hip-hop artist 'M-Bone'

Montae 'M-Bone' Talbert, a musician and dancer with the hip-hop group Cali Swag District, rose to fame with the 2009 song 'Teach Me How to Dougie.' He died in a drive-by shooting in Inglewood Sunday night.

May 17, 2011|By Gale Holland and Jeff Weiss, Los Angeles Times
  • Montae 'M-Bone' Talbert performs with his group, Cali Swag District, at BET's Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta in October 2010.
Montae 'M-Bone' Talbert performs with his group, Cali Swag… (Paul Abell / Associated…)

Authorities Monday were trying to determine a motive in the drive-by shooting of a hip-hop artist in his hometown of Inglewood.

Montae "M-Bone" Talbert, 22, was shot twice in the head Sunday night when he stopped at a liquor store after leaving a recording studio in the 400 block of North La Brea Avenue, police said.

Photos: Vigil honors M-Bone

The shooter fired from a vehicle that pulled up alongside Talbert's car, according to police. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Known for his sinuous moves, Talbert set off a national dance craze with his hip-hop group, Cali Swag District. The group had just recorded a follow-up to the platinum hit "Teach Me How to Dougie," according to associates.

Publicist Greg Miller said the shooting appeared to be an act of random violence, but authorities said they had not established a motive.

"We haven't gotten any information he was the target of anything," said Lt. Steve Overly of the Inglewood Police Department.

Miller issued a statement on behalf of Talbert's family, praising him as an "inspiration to his family, friends and fans" and an artist whose talents will be missed. "He was a hardworking, passionate artist and dancer that will be deeply missed," the statement said.

On Monday afternoon, about 200 family members, friends and fans gathered for a vigil in front of the liquor store where Talbert was slain. While a crowd stood on a sidewalk, two women danced to "Teach Me How to Dougie."

Several other artists expressed sadness over the slaying, including Jayceon Terrell Taylor, a.k.a. "The Game."

"Can I get a moment of silence for the lil homie M-Bone R.I.P. from Cali Swag District. A kid Gunned down in the streets of Los Angeles," Taylor tweeted.

Until 2009, Cali Swag District was a largely unknown group of four Inglewood teenagers making R&B-hip-hop hybrids. Then the video for "Teach Me How to Dougie" set off the biggest dance fad since Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat" in 2007.

"Teach Me How to Dougie" reached No. 6 on the Billboard rap singles chart and sold about 2 million legal downloads. Justin Bieber taught Ellen DeGeneres how to Dougie, and Ryan Seacrest and Jennifer Lopez gave it a whirl on "American Idol."

Ebony West, who produced the hit under the name Runway Star, said Talbert was an exceptionally talented street dancer and "hype man" who worked up the crowds for Cali's live shows.

"I've never seen the kid not smiling," West said in a telephone interview. "He gave the crowds something to look at."

West said Talbert had grown up with the other Cali Swag District members — Corey "Smoove" Fowler, Cahron "JayAre" Childs and Chante "Yung" Clee — and they remained tight.

In an interview with The Times in January, the group said M-Bone was its "craziest" member. Colorfully tattooed, he got the most ladies, because, as he said, "I go after 'em."

Cali members said they had never been involved with gangs but couldn't help knowing members, growing up in Inglewood in the late 1990s. "Back then, when there were gangs it went hand in hand with drug dealing," Fowler said. "Now drugs aren't as big. Most of the gang beefs are over females."

Before joining Cali Swag District, Talbert had been a promoter and a dancer. He never rapped, nor did he take dance lessons; his skills came naturally.

Though he mastered a variety of popular dance styles, his smooth swaggering performances of the Dougie, which originated in Texas and was based on 1980s rap icon Doug E. Fresh, brought him to fame.

Photos: Vigil honors M-Bone

Talbert told The Times that he wanted at some point to get into buying, rehabilitating and selling real estate properties.

Anyone with information regarding the slaying is asked to contact Inglewood homicide detectives at (310) 412-5246, or the department's 24-hour anonymous hot line at (888) 41-CRIME.

gale.holland@latimes.com

Weiss is a special correspondent.

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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