Looking to make a name for himself, Lemandre Ingram briefly moved to Oakland from Minneapolis in his 20s and started rapping under the moniker "Blue Ghost."
Rodney Owens, a childhood friend, said that Ingram and two other Midwest transplants went on to form a rap group, which began to build a little buzz in the Bay Area.
"When they met there together, they created a brotherly bond with each other," Owens said.
That led to an introduction to multiplatinum-selling rapper Nelly, who signed the group to his fledgling Derrty Entertainment record label, Owens said. For six years, the group awaited their turn in the spotlight. Instead, they mostly worked behind the scenes, writing songs and touring, while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fat Joe, T.I. and Janet Jackson. In 2005, they collaborated with Nelly on a song for the "The Longest Yard" soundtrack. But they left the label two years later over creative differences, Owens said, without ever releasing an album.
Ingram, 40, was found fatally shot early Monday in a north Minneapolis alley. A 32-year-old man, Jeffrey McRaven, has been charged with the killing.
Friends say the two men were related, but it wasn't immediately clear how.
A 911 call from a neighbor about 7:10 a.m. Monday led police to Ingram, whose body was found in a snowbank behind a house in the 3500 block of N. 4th Street, in the McKinley neighborhood. Autopsy findings released Wednesday concluded that he died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.
On the day before his body was found, Ingram, McRaven and a third man had been driving around in a maroon Chevy Tahoe, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court. The unidentified third man said the group stopped at his home in the 3700 block of N. Penn Avenue and he was walking toward the house when he heard a single gunshot, turned and saw McRaven holding a gun, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors say that he and McRaven drove to an alley near N. 35th Avenue and 4th Street to dispose of the body, which was discovered the following morning by a neighbor.
McRaven is not in custody and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. He does not yet have a lawyer.
Court records show that McRaven, nicknamed "JFK," has a lengthy criminal history. In 2018, he was convicted of second-degree riot with a dangerous weapon for his role in a triple shooting that left a 17-year-old boy paralyzed from the waist down, the records show. He was ordered to serve a year in the county workhouse and then three years of probation, the records show.
While authorities have offered no motive for the slaying, Owens said he thinks his friend may have been killed over money. An avid gambler, Ingram had recently hit it big at a casino, and word of his newfound windfall had spread, Owens said.
Others, he said, were jealous of his ability as an emcee.
As news of his death spread on social media this week, friends and relatives shared stories of Ingram, who after moving back to Minneapolis became a fixture on the city's underground hip-hop scene.
Owens said that despite Ingram's affiliation with some industry insiders with gang ties, "anything that had to do with violence, he wasn't with it."
After his death, some of his followers posted videos of themselves rapping along to his music. Others unearthed a homemade documentary from 2008 about Ingram and his rap group Taylor Made Family, featuring interviews with both of his parents. In it, his mother says he wrote his first song at age 8.
Ingram is survived by five children, relatives say.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.