Cali Swag District Talk Snitching, LP + M-Bone Death
Coming off the success of a huge single like ‘Teach Me How to Dougie,’ Los Angeles-based rap group Cali Swag District could easily go down the road of “one-hit wonder land,” but with the release of their second album ‘The Kickback,’ the West Coast rap collective refuses to be counted out.
Released in April of last year, ‘Teach Me How to Dougie’ had all the makings of a classic light-hearted adolescent hip-hop hit, complete with the playful dance inspired by a mixture of Texas moves and the “jerking” craze made popular in L.A. The single would go on to peak at the No. 9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles and sell over a million copies worldwide, putting Cali Swag District on the map among hot new groups.
The success of the song had just about everybody wanting to get in on the action, from CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer to First Lady Michele Obama all trying their hand at doing the Dougie. Yet, just when it seemed that their career could get no better, the group suffered a harrowing tragedy with the shooting death of member Montae “M-Bone” Talbert in May. The 22-year-old was reportedly killed outside of a liquor store in their hometown of Inglewood, Calif.
While M-Bone’s murder remains unsolved, the rap trio has banded together to tribute their fallen member the best way they know how: through music. After releasing the track ‘How To Do That,’ an upbeat ode to the young MC, rather than wallow in their sorrow, C-Smoove, JayAre and Yung have every intention of making M-Bone proud. Read on as the rhymers reveal their thoughts on snitching, the R&B dude they’re set on collaborating with and what they do in M-Bone’s honor.
How has M-Bone’s death affected the group?
C-Smoove: That really made us come closer. Being mad at each other and losing somebody is like the worst pain you could have. Ever. I’m not saying any of us had an issue with Bone, it’s just bad. We hardly ever argue now and we just live everyday like it’s our last. We try to remember Bone, every time we do something fun we bring up Bone because that’s where he wanted to be, where the fun was. Everything we do now is for Bone, no matter what it is, because if he was here he would be helping us do it. I know he doesn’t want to see us fail.
How do you feel about the killer not being caught yet because witnesses have not spoken up? And what do you think of “snitching” or coming forward with info?
C-Smoove: That’s just how the streets are. You really can’t fault anybody for thinking like that. Most of the time somebody opens their mouth and somebody does come back and retaliate. The people who didn’t want to speak up are in fear and you really can’t fault them.
JayAre: If [people] know anything I wish they’d come forward and say something.
Do you ever think of leaving Inglewood because of his murder?
C-Smoove: All the time because we grew up here and nothing’s changed. I know how this works — every summer it’s the same thing. My first tattoo was an R.I.P tattoo of [one of] my friends. Our first big performance, one of our friends died right before we got on stage. We done lost about seven or eight people from Inglewood in the last three or four years. It’s shocking when you find out who it is but the summer is killing season and you can’t really change that.
On a lighter note, let’s talk about the album. How does ‘The Kickback’ differ from your debut?
C-Smoove: The album is different because we got many different genres of music on there. We have a rock sound, slow songs and up-tempo techno songs. It’ll show people our range, show them that we’re not just about that dance, that song, we really do this.
What was your creative process in putting together the album?
Yung: We’d basically have everyone come through and have a small party and we would look at the reactions on our friend’s faces. If they were feeling it, we knew that that would be a song that would be on the album. A lot of people don’t know that we have talent. ‘Teach Me How to Dougie’ didn’t really show our talent lyrically.
Do you think there are any songs on this album that will top the Dougie?
C-Smoove: I’m not even gonna lie to you…No! [laughs] The Dougie is too big. It went too big. I don’t think we’re going to beat that.
JayAre: That’s probably one of the biggest songs we’re gonna have.
Do you have any dream collaborations that you guys haven’t been able to lock down yet?
C-Smoove: We def want to a song with Chris Brown, that’s the top of the list because he’s doing his thing. We see him here and there, we just got to set it up pretty much. He got all the ladies and we a group of dudes and we want the ladies too. I mean we got ‘em, too, but he can sing. He’s just good at what he [does].
JayAre: E-40. I think that’d be a dope collab. He got his own style, he always does him. He’s been holding the bay down for so long.
Life has really changed for you guys in the last year. What’s a big business decision you had to make recently?
C-Smoove: The first time we went on tour we lived on a bus. It was four of us, four dancers and our manager. That was something to experience right there. We were driving all over the country, our sleep schedules were different, you sleep all day and work all night. It was crazy. I feel like I learned a lot just from going on that tour because really you have to survive out there. You have to really grind and make sure you’re ready to all the interviews and get on stage. Then working out on the bus, I was doing push-ups, throwing up from motion sickness.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened on tour?
JayAre: This one girl ate my gum [laughs]. She asked me if I had any gum, I was like, “Nah,” just the one I had in my mouth. She put her hand out and I was like, “Are you sure?”
That’s pretty funny. Do you have any advice for celebrities navigating their way through the bubble of fame?
C-Smoove: The biggest piece of advice I could give is stay dedicated, whatever it is that you’re doing. Us being from California, and putting out a song to a Dallas dance, we got a lot of negative feedback from people from Dallas. They felt like we stole something from them but in reality we embraced it and made it bigger than what it was. You really have to prepare yourself for the feedback because these people don’t hold back.
Watch Cali Swag District’s ‘Teach Me How to Dougie (Remix)’