Photography & Interview by Estevan Oriol
For decades, Estevan Oriol has been telling the stories of Los Angeles through his photographs. Having previously shared his archive in the pages of BRICK, we don’t need to tell you that his work has been the visual accompaniment to L.A.’s hip-hop landscape since the early ’90s. For this issue, Estevan spotlights one of his favourite artists: G Perico, a rapper with a sound and story that is continuing to represent exactly what it means to be from the West Coast.
Estevan Oriol: Let’s start off by introducing yourself, for those out there that might not know you.
G Perico: I go by G Perico, from South Central Los Angeles. Right on the borderline between the East and the West Side, so I could say I’m from both.
EO: Tell me a little bit about yourself before you got into the music.
GP: Before I got into the music, I was into trouble, man. I’ve been to prison twice, I’ve been through the whole juvenile system. I’ve probably done did everything a street person does.
EO: What first got you into doing music?
GP: I always been around music. My uncle was part of [’90s underground LA hip-hop collective] Sick Block, they used to be in the back of my granny house, so I’ve always been around studios, watching. But I was more interested in the other side -they used to come through on the gangsta shit to the house. I stayed in two places, I stayed in Inglewood, and I stayed in the ‘hood, equally. And then motherfuckers used to come to the house in Inglewood from the ‘hood, stripping cars in the yard and I used to be helping them unscrew shit. So that’s what I liked. My other uncle, Jason, he was doing the music shit, and he was having money back then. This is when Jeeps was crackin’, he had two Jeeps. This is when I was little, so I’ve just been around both worlds, but I chose the other one first, street shit. And that shit didn’t work out. There’s really ain’t no winning with that. You might win for a brief period of time, but you just keep going to jail.
EO: How much time did they give you, all together?
GP: Shit, four in the pen, then two. Four with half, two with half. I’ve been to camp three times, six months, nine months, four months – but the nine months I ended up staying longer, like a little over a year. I went to juvenile halls a lot of different times. County jail though – once I was able to start bailing out, I never sat in the county jail! All the shit I got in trouble for I bailed right out, so I ain’t really do much in the County longer than a week.
EO: Did you start rapping when you were in jail, or while you were in the streets?
GP: I started writing raps when I was maybe 15, but I ain’t never say them to nobody though. Then around the time I turned 17, my granny wanted me to stay out of trouble, and she knew people with studios. I used to go to this one dude’s house named Victor, and that nigga basically taught me how to record. I still wasn’t fucking with it like that; I think what really made me decide to pursue it is when the homies and my homegirls were telling me that I was tight and playing my shit - it pretty much gave me the confidence to do it, and I just locked myself in the studio. But I was still doing the street shit, went to prison, got out, rapped a little bit, still doing all street shit, went back to jail. Right before I had my daughter I was like “Fuck it, I’m finna get for real with this shit”, but I still got to get money though. So the only option was street shit. Bam, back to prison. When I get out and was thinking about jumping back on some street shit, they took 73 homies to the feds. That’s when I was like “Oh shit, I need to rap. I’m spooked.” Because they was snatching niggas up and giving them five years for nothing. That shit pretty much scared me straight, and now I’m full-time music. I’ve got a little lane of my own, and I’ve just been navigating. Just getting deeper into it as an artist, and I love it.
EO: Who were you listening to back then that got you pumped up to get into the game?
GP: A lot of Cash Money, Jay-Z, old No Limit Records shit, Nelly, Fifty, Snoop, Cube, Too $hort, all the “Bangin’ on Wax” shit, really both sides. A lot of it is still in my rotation right now.
EO: Did you put out stuff before your first album you did?
GP: I put out street shit, like CDs not realising that CDs were obsolete. I would have moved a whole lot faster if I hadn’t have done the CD shit but at the same time, it got the streets listening. Motherfuckers seeing my shit everywhere gave me a cool intro, but a slow intro, as opposed to just going straight digital.
EO: Tell me about how you put together the album.
GP: So when I came home from prison the second time, there was a crew of producers already in the studio waiting for me. There was Webb Made This, Larry Jayy, and I already had Poly Boy. So basically for SHIT DON’T STOP, that was it. And THA INNERPRIZE TWO was all in-house, we Would just be on 108th, banging shit out. That was when I got shot, working on that project. That was my intro to the industry, learning how shit works, getting a chance to fuck with other artists, soaking game.
EO: What is it like to do all this independently, without a record deal?
GP: I actually wanted a deal at first, but I just seen how that shit go. All the paperwork that was getting put in front of me, and the conversations, it just wasn’t right for me. The conversations weren’t right, the paperwork wasn’t right - I would have basically been playing myself. So I got out here independent, dropped SHIT DON’T STOP, ALL BLUE, 2 THA LEFT, and G-WORTHY which was a group project with me, Cardo and Jay Worthy. I pretty much did everything myself that a label would do. And that’s just from me learning from other artists about what their labels would do. I just knew that by me doing all that, it would increase my value and the conversations would be different - and that’s what’s happened, the conversations are a lot more to my liking right now, the ball is a little more in my court.
EO: When you got shot at, was that when you were doing music or before?
GP: I ain’t gonna lie, I was still straddling the gate, otherwise it might have been different. What people don’t understand about a person like me living the street life for so long and then getting into music, is that there’s a lot of shit that you will never be able to shake. Of course there’s always gonna be somebody that’s trying to kill me or whatnot, just based on past shit. And also based on who I am now, people that I might have grew up with or old enemies who are even more mad because nobody expecting this music shit to go this good – I didn’t even expect it! I actually had a show later that day, because this happened at 3 a.m. and I had just got done rehearsing for the show.
EO: What do you remember about that day?
GP: It was just a regular-ass day; a gang of people was coming through to the studio on 108th while I was rehearsing. I had the homegirl braid my hair, then I dropped her off and as I got back, some niggas tried to block me in around the corner from the studio in a truck. I’m thinking they finna get me, because they hit the high beams – I’m just expecting the bullets to slide through. I bluffed 'em though, opened the door, holding my cellphone [to look like a gun], because niggas know about me – every case I ever had has been a gun case. That’s all I’ve ever been to jail for, period. So I’m hanging out the door with the bluff move, and they give it up, get up outta there.
I drive off, I’m tryna hurry up and get to the studio, I’m looking for the car that they was in. Not even a minute later, I’m pulling up in front of the studio, a whole ’nother car pulls up on the side. And mind you, late night, ain’t shit ever happen to me like this. Situations happen, but getting shot? Shit, I move like a motherfuckin’ ninja! If I see cars on the block, I don’t park - I just hit a couple extra corners until the street is clear. But I was in a rush, and I see this little ass car, so I’m like “Fuck it, I’ll park.” That went against everything I believe in! They slid up and got to lighting that motherfucker up, like “pop pop pop pop.” One of the bullets hit me in the hip, and they were still shooting. I was like “fuck this.” I duck down and throw the car in reverse and just gunned it. Somehow, and I don’t know how, but I managed to turn the car around and slide out.
I ain’t even say shit, I went around the corner to my granny house and went up in there. I didn’t have no fucked up limp or nothing, I was like “I’m straight!” But then when I looked at it, it looked like a tennis ball on my hip with a hole in it. I was on parole at the time, so that’s why I really didn’t want to go to the hospital, niggas get violated for that shit. I ended up going to the hospital in the Valley. I walked in and said “I think I got shot”, some shit like that. Gave them a little fake name, they did an X-Ray, and they said “There’s some little pieces right here, but you good though, ain’t nothing broke up or nothing.” I’m like “alright cool” So after that, they left the room and I’m like “I’m outta here!” I grabbed the box of gloves, the tape, the gauze, threw it all in my backpack and left up outta there.
And then I went and did the show later on that night, rocked it. Stiff as a motherfucker, though!
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