A shortened version of this interview originally appeared at FACT Magazine.
This is the Los Angeles gangster rap renaissance. YG is a flamed up superstar with two classic albums to his name; 03 Greedo is peering through his dreadlocks to record teary gangbanging ballads; Vince Staples is taking his 2N Gangsta Crip Yankee gear to Madison Square Garden in February; Drakeo–a muddy lean sipper with the blinding confidence to call his enemies “silly billies”–is again a free man; After years of street hits, RJ can call himself “Mr. LA” without (okay, with a little) controversy; TeeCee4800’s rasping Realness Over Millions 2 put Midtown on the L.A. rap map; and, of course, DJ Quik, MC Eiht, and Snoop Dogg remain productive and enjoyable–and, in Quik’s case, innovative–artists. But none of them was better in 2017 than G Perico.
On All Blue, 2 Tha Left, and G-Worthy (his collaborative EP with Jay Worthy and Cardo), Perico bridges the gap between the bouncing, bright G-funk of his childhood and the polyvalent Los Angeles of the present. He’s a Crip who made an EP with a Blood. He raps over beats with the wail of “Funky Worm” and the rat-a-tat of trap hi-hats. He sports a Michael Cage-style Jheri curl and drives a new BMW. And, earlier this year, he sat down with me to talk about his transformation from a Gangster Crip in solitary confinement to a gangster rapper with a business. —Torii MacAdams
What did you want to be growing up? Was being a rapper a viable option for you?
G Perico:Naw, I just wanted to be a straight gangster. That’s it. And then I come to find out that, y’know, there ain’t really no good ending to it. I kind of outlived the ending of the gangster shit. Music was next on the list–something that I could do.
Who was the first rapper you were into?
G Perico:When I started getting into music, it was Cash Money [Records]. I was fans of Cash Money first; all this other shit–the West Coast, LA shit–was already around me, but the first music I wanted to go and get at the store was Cash Money. That was the whole Cash Money crew.
Do you remember the first Cash Money CD? I think mine was Tha G-Code.
G Perico:400 Degreez. Pretty much everything around that time–a couple of ‘em was tapes.
When you’re making music, who do you imagine listening to it?
G Perico:Right now, I think about niggas in the spot, people in the streets, people in a concert. I do write with that in mind. Shows [and] the streets first–with the streets: ‘Can they get this?’
Has that changed at all since the first Innerprize?
G Perico:Naw–the first Innerprize, I really didn’t have shit, and I wasn’t even really trying to rap. PC used to be at my studio everyday–he was YG’s boy ’n’ shit–and I’d just leave him the key. They were songs he helped me with, and I put them together on a CD. I was on my way to jail, so I was like ‘I’mma drop a CD–fuck it.’” I was a local rap celebrity when I came home.
Were you getting feedback on it while you were in prison?
G Perico:Yeah, ASAP Yams got a hold of me while I was in the pen. As soon as I got out, straight to LA, he on the block, fuckin’ wit’ us.
Did other inmates know who you were because of your music?
G Perico:Nope. Nobody knew me yet because of music. They knew me for ignorant shit.
How did you pass the time in prison?
G Perico:Exercising–I was kinda buff when I got out, I don’t exercise at all now–reading, writing. I never rapped for nobody in jail. Because the shit was so typical. In jail you got a gang of niggas beating on they chest, singing, beating on the table. I used to just look at niggas like, ‘Man, that’s not really what I do. I do gangster shit.’ I think I was running from my destiny, maybe. Man, exercising, cell phone–getting naked pictures–smoking weed, all type of shit. Tattoos–I didn’t get no tattoos last time I went.
What do you like to read?
G Perico:At first, I was reading them urban gangster books like Dutch, B-More Careful; I couldn’t really get into Iceberg Slim’s shit–it was too far out. I just didn’t get the generational gap. But then I started falling into self-help, like The Art of War, Rich Dad Poor Dad, a slew of books like that. Shit to help you focus.
Do you ever go to the used bookstore across the street from your studio?
G Perico:I don’t fuckin’ read books like that out here. I got a few books that people give me, or shit that I bought but haven’t read. There’s so many distractions out here, I still haven’t found that space I can get into and not be distracted. I haven’t really read too much; I got a couple audiobooks that one of my Jewish patnas sent me.
What’s the shittiest part of being on parole?
G Perico:Having to answer to somebody, because I’m, like, anti-authority. I didn’t have no pops growing up like that, or too much authoritative figures. A muh’fucka telling me what I can and can’t do, or telling me to report at my door…and I run the risk of jail if I don’t feel like doing what they say, or if I get an asshole…it’s just like your destiny is in somebody else’s hands, so you gotta tread on thin ice. You can’t live life. They call it ‘rehabilitation’–it’s really not, it’s more like…consolidation. They just trap your mind. Just getting out of that revolving door is the hardest part about parole. You go back and if you’re a muh’fucka used to doing time you’ll just waste it.
Do you find yourself actively treading that narrow path every day?
G Perico:Hell yeah, because I’m not rich yet. I think even if I get rich I’ll slide through, but in a different way. Yeah, it’s tricky, because I could be going to handle business in the ghetto and see somebody that don’t like me, y’know, and I’m not into playing the victim role. That’s pretty much my only concern these days–I don’t do shit else.
You mentioned in another interview that you don’t have much relationship with your parents. Has that changed at all?
G Perico:Naw, naw, not really. I have my granny ‘n’ shit, but I haven’t really hollered at my two parents. They’re livin they life, I’m livin’ mine. That’s how it’s been since the beginning.
What’s the biggest change in your life since Tha Innerprize II?
G Perico:The biggest change is just the opportunity, and I’m seeing it. And I just know that I’ve gotta pick a side, and I picked the side that I wanna be on: that’s this music business. I mean, that’s the biggest thing: more doors opening. I’m getting more understanding about shit, too, like life experiences. I’m evolving at a fast pace right now.
Do you feel like you’re making up for lost time?
G Perico:Hell yeah, that’s why I be on this muh’fucka right here [points to manager, Pun]. Like, ‘Be patient!’ Bro, I was fuckin’ up. I feel like I was behind, so I gotta gas, you know?
span style=”color: #ebebeb;”>It’s not even financial—it’s status. I feel like I’m supposed to be at a certain point. If I was still in the street, I’d be at the top of the food chain on some gangster shit, but where’s that end? In actual, real life, there’s times I had way more money–like loads, shoeboxes full of money–but it was short-lived. And you can’t even really do shit. Now, I got credit. I can move way better than I could with loads of money. I’m making up for the time I wasted as far as being a legit citizen. I’m behind on that.
Why’d you start the So Way Out store?
G Perico:Because I didn’t want to sell dope. [Laughing] I could’ve easily went and got a spot and did the same shit, and been a few hundred up by now. But you’ve gotta pick that side. That was like a test of me picking a side. Like, I’ve got all that extra energy…I don’t think I’ll ever be good at just doing one thing, y’know what I’m saying? It was just necessary for me, at the time, to have something to keep me busy and kill that idle time because I’ll be getting that itch for the street shit. I’ll be ready to say, ‘Fuck everything’ sometimes.
[The store] was a big piece as far as me keeping it together, because it was a legit responsibility, something I could put my face with and I don’t gotta be looking over my shoulder as far as the law is concerned. The police in my area, I don’t think they believe it. They even raided my shop! Probably thought I was gonna have guns, dope, whatever. But I’m actually on some shit right now, [and] a lotta people are surprised.
What are some of the challenges of being a black business owner?
G Perico:I would say in the black area–especially my area–people don’t know the power keeping money within the community. That could sponsor big growth for everybody. That’s the biggest thing I be trying to stress: Let’s circulate these dollars and save. That’s not really not for me–I could go off and get some money–it’s being worried about the people.
The biggest challenge as an owner, period, is knowledge. Knowing everything about the game that you’re in and mastering it at some point. Learning the in’s and out’s.
On “Power” you rap, “Another baby on the way makes baby mama number three.” Is that real?
G Perico:Naw, I ain’t got another baby on the way. I just got one, [and] a few Maury [Povich] “maybe babies.” You know, you when you’re popping, bitches just pop up. You could breathe on a bitch these days and she’s pregnant. That [line] was moreso referencing my homie I was with at the time.
Do you feel like being a parent has changed your outlook on life?
G Perico:Yeah, it definitely has. I can’t think for only me now–and that’s what got me a lot less reckless. Because at first I never really wanted kids, like, ‘I’m about to live my shit on the edge to the end.’ And then I got a daughter, and I’m going through some shit with that with her mom.
My life has to be in order–not on no gangster shit, but on some real life shit–because she a girl, and if she’s anything like me she’s gon’ be a hoodrat and fast. And that’s not cool for a girl. I gotta get my shit in order and have a foundation. Something for her, so she’ll be ahead in life when she gets older. It’s made me buckle down and do a lot more sacrificing as far as enjoying myself. Can’t just think about myself.
Do you think you’re going to stay in L.A. longterm?
G Perico:Hell, yeah, I’m never ever leaving L.A. Ever. I might get a vacation house in another city, but L.A. forever gon’ be the hub. I’m always gon’ have to slide through the city, especially if I get any significant success. I can’t leave the city–that’s what I talk about! I’m coming up off of my life in the city, the shit that I’m seeing in the city, and the shit that happens in the city. I’ll stay away from a lot fuck up situations–that’s for sure–but not the city as a whole. Nuh-uh, can’t go.
On “Dedicate” you rap about calling into radio stations. Have you ever actually dedicated songs to someone?
G Perico:Yeah, I’ve dedicated songs but not called into the radio. I never even tried because that’s a crazy process. When I was in jail….matter of fact, I think I did dedicated some Art Laboe shit the first time I was in the pen, if I’m not mistaken. I had a TracFone. When Art Laboe’s giving shout-outs, it’s everyone in prison–I wonder why it’s on in jail every fuckin’ Sunday? Art Laboe is on in jail every Sunday!
All Blue is out on Priority. How’d that deal come about?
G Perico:It’s just digital distribution. It’s not some complex deal–if I wanna do another one, I’ll do another one.
Same with the Omerta pressing Shit Don’t Stop on vinyl?
G Perico:Yeah, a good little one off. That was more motivation, too. That shit was kind of amazing to me, like ‘Damn, on vinyl.’ That’s dope, ‘cuz that’s [for] people that enjoy music on a different level.
Do you find that it’s surreal for people to be taking your music that seriously?
G Perico:Hell, yeah! It’s crazy how people in the city that’s not supposed to be showing me love…like today, I was in the back of my homie’s shop on Crenshaw, and some Neighborhood niggas walk up: ‘Ey, ain’t you whoopty-whoop? Man, I love your shit, homie!’ And, in all actuality, they supposed to have a little issue wit’ me, depending on how they feeling. I’ve been getting a lot of unexpected love, people quoting my shit, the ratings…the shit is crazy. I love it, though.
What do you worry about?
G Perico:I’ve fucked off so much time just being a dickhead—‘I ain’t doin’ nothin’ else but this nigga shit’–that, looking at a lot of my older homies, a lot has sunk in. I know where I don’t want to be. I don’t wanna be no nigga in his thirties that don’t got shit, or have somethin’ for a minute, go to jail, in ‘n’ out…I got a daughter, [and] if she grows up fucked up, that’s [me] basically being a loser. I can’t be a loser. I don’t think I was put here to be a loser-ass muh’fucka. I got a voice, and people have taken to it. I gotta win. I gotta be a productive muh’fucka.
That was one of the things that stuck with me from your profile in Noisey was you going to prison, and another inmate saying he’d stab you if he came back.
G Perico:Yeah, he was jokin’ wit’ it, but I was 25 and he was 25 when he got life in ‘88 or ‘89. He’s just been in there, life without the possibility of parole, never coming home. That was the reality check right there. Everything was hitting me all at the same time: my best friend died on some underhanded shit then I land[ed] on this yard where everybody got life, even my homies that I grew up with–they be givin’ niggas life at 14, 15–that I haven’t seen in that long, that’s never coming home. They can’t provide for nobody, they can’t help, they can just call and ask for shit. That’s their whole existence. And here I am, with all this talent. I’ve been good at everything I did my whole life, y’know, it just gets to a point where it’s insane and stupid. Just kicking yourself in the ass…
You said on the album you have the hood tatted like 20 times–you really do?
G Perico:Yeah. [Taps various spots on chest, arms, shoulders, legs] Nah, ‘bout 16. I wanna get a few more tattoos, but I wonder if [the cops] would take that as me saying I’m an active nigga out here, trippin’. A majority of my shit is documented. I’ve been out [of prison] for three years, and I think you fall out of the file after seven years of being out of trouble. But that shit is tricky, man.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
G Perico:I wanna position myself to be not just an artist, but a business mogul. And that why my artistry will go even longer. Everybody that positions themselves to be a good businessman, they artistry lasted longer. You know how they say the average artist got five years? Maybe that’s the average nigga that don’t think about the future–I’m forced to think about the future now because every day is the future, right? I wanna position myself to be a mogul and get involved as much good business as possible without draining myself.
Yeah, Duncan [Perico’s publicist] mentioned that you have a couple young rappers that you’re mentoring.
G Perico:YC Creez and my homie M3. They’re from the neighborhood; Creez is my big homegirl’s son–I’ve been knowing him since he was baby–and M3 one of the homies that’s actually from the hood, active. I really wanna help them get in the same position that I am–I don’t wanna own they shit, I don’t wanna run they shit, y’know what I mean? I just wanna help them with their vision.
I meant to ask you: Poly Boy did your first two mixtapes exclusively, right?
G Perico:Yeah, I did all that shit at the same time, Tha Innerprize and Tha Hiatus, which was extra shit. I called him and told him to put it out. Poly Boy is actually one of the reasons I started trying to rap, because I met him at a video shoot. Young Mav called me to go to Vegas with him. He was filming a video, and needed floss money ‘n’ shit, and around this time everybody knew I’m the cash man–’Holla at me if you need cash.’ I grabbed like $20,000 in twenties and hundreds so it looked real nice.
I met Poly at the video shoot; I didn’t even say ‘I do music’ because we’re here for Mav and I never really could get myself to be that type of person. I want everybody to get they shine, because I’mma get mine regardless. I was just kicking it, we were talking regular, talking shit, they rented the Lamborghini and was out there clowning, and Mav played him a song we had. [Poly] called me and he came down to the studio, and we’ve just been rocking ever since. And that’s been almost seven years now.
How do you decide who to collaborate with?
G Perico:I don’t really be trying to do music with anybody. It’s moreso a vibration. This rap shit, for me studying it, is so fake. I’m not gon’ never make it my business to call out fake niggas, because this shit is entertainment at the end of the day. It don’t matter if you’re real or not–I’m not about to be pointing out niggas’ flaws.
With that being said, I don’t like to do music with niggas because I’ve seen so many niggas act buddy-buddy doing the rap shit, and never really even get a chance to know each other–but they “bro’s” and “brothers” and “for life,” they do songs together, and they fall out and it’s some messy shit. I don’t wanna be associated with that, because my life’s been so real, I can’t waste time playing with nobody like that. I need to moving my train forward.
And then there’s a lot of rappers that I fuck with, but we don’t be making no tight music together. So it never comes out. You gotta be a solid individual and the music’s gotta be tight for a collaboration.
Are there people you’re looking to work with, or you don’t even think about it?
G Perico:I let the universe handle that. We’ll be in the right room if it’s supposed to happen. If the energy’s right, we gon’ connect. There’s plenty of people I thought I wanted to work with–and I ain’t gonna name names–and meeting them you’re like, ‘Fuck this nigga.’ Even some muh’fuckas that pay me for verses, I don’t want the money like that if it’s not something I think is dope.
What have you been listening to lately?
G Perico:I’ve been listening to my shit. I was just at the light on La Brea and Slauson and just vibin’ out wit’ it as a fan now. I just fall into deep thought because the shit I be talking about be, like, really taking me to places because I talk about actual shit that’s going on. As soon as I look up, the light’s red, and I ran through it just daydreaming. I had to gun it and get up out of it. Like, ‘Man, I hope there’s no cops around, I ain’t paid my insurance this month…’
That, the new Nef the Pharaoh, and, other than that, oldies. I listen to a gang of Rufus & Chaka Khan. I be listening to oldies for melodies–you know how niggas sample the beats? Since I rap, I sample patterns and melodies.
That makes sense–I never know whether to call your music ‘G-funk,’ or ‘gangster rap,’ or…
G Perico:It’s something different. It’s got the G-funk feel, but the tempo ain’t really G-funk. And the topics are a bunch of ghetto shit. On “Bacc Forth” I describe exactly where I’m at in life. It’s a lot of shit I wanna do, but the street shit is…I’m just a sucker for it sometimes.
If you could change things in your past, would you?
G Perico:Naw. Because then I wouldn’t be me. Like Back to the Future. I just watched that shit the other Sunday for the first time ever! When [Marty] went back to the future and [he’s] fuckin’ shit up, everything is different. I’m not mad at where I’m at. I feel like I’m not all the way in the position I’m ‘posed to be, but I’m not mad at where I’m at or who I am.
And, I never did no fuck-ass, punk-ass shit. I might’ve fucked a couple bitches that I wasn’t ‘posed to fuck, [or] committed a crime at the wrong time and got caught, but there’s nothing I did that I can’t live with. I wouldn’t change shit. I’m gon’ keep it the same: G, The Ghetto President.