Montae Talbert, known by those close to him as M-Bone, was a young man on the threshold of fulfilling his dreams. Talbert had aspirations of becoming a music star and, as the dance member of the hip hop group Cali Swag District, the 22-year-old Talbert was well on his way.

The group released the infectious hit “Teach Me How to Dougie,” last year, and appeared to be on the brink of stardom. But Talbert’s dream came to an abrupt halt when he was gunned down in his hometown of Inglewood, Calif. in the late night hours of May 15.

Talbert’s family, friends, fellow musicians and the larger hip hop community have been in mourning since the fatal shooting.

“He was a real energetic person,” said hip hop artist Suge Gotti, who worked alongside Talbert and Cali Swag District. “He was all positive, no negative. He was a harmless person. That’s why I don’t understand how this could happen to him. I don’t have anything negative to say about him. He’ll truly be missed. It’s a big loss. To watch a young man growing into something and then be part of the game…that’s hard to replace.”

According to police, Talbert was sitting in a car outside of Airport Liquor & Groceries Store on LaBrea Avenue in Inglewood when another car drove up beside the vehicle he was in and its occupants opened fire. Talbert was hit twice in the head, police said.

The news of Talbert’s demise sent shock waves nationwide, and throngs of visitors and well-wishers have placed flowers and cards in front of the store where he was murdered, forming a makeshift memorial.

Since Talbert’s death, speculation has swirled around why he lost his life, and the identity of his killers. Some of those rumors point to an unidentified young woman and possibly another male.

Talbert’s family and friends have set aside those rumors, and said they lost an energetic, loving soul who helped give America more than a dance craze.

“Montae was the fifth of my 13 grandchildren. We want to see justice come for my beloved Montae,” said Mary Alice Phillips, Talbert’s grandmother. “I raised Montae all the days of his life, all through school, all through the whole process…and what joy.”

Talbert’s family has offered a reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of those responsible for his death.

Among the community members shaken by Talbert’s killing was Pamela Sanders, who operates Washington Hancock for Girls, a group home for abused girls in Los Angeles. Sanders came into contact with Talbert in 2008 when Cali Swag District stopped by the group home and brought Christmas gifts for 186 girls.

Sanders said the group has faithfully stopped by every year since to bring the girls presents. Sanders said she remembers Talbert fondly, and was shocked to hear of his murder.

“It’s unbelievable,” Sanders said. “His personality was beautiful. Their personality was beautiful.”

Talbert’s funeral has been scheduled for May 27 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, Calif.


Dennis J. Freeman

Special to the AFRO