G PERICO Feelin’ good and influencing the neighborhood. Mar Snare

When he picks up the phone on a Monday afternoon, LA rapper G Perico is positively glowing.

“I’m at my coffee table, I got my portable studio set up, and I’m just about to knock out a gang of [recordings] right now,” he says, a wide smile audible in his voice. “I’m feeling good. I got new energy. Been at my whiteboard. I ain’t go to the hood today. I’m weaning myself off the street shit, you know.”

There are several key words in that quote, and one of them is “weaning.” Perico hasn’t completely removed himself from the streets of his neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles, near where the 105 freeway meets the 110. He still shows up on the block, but these days, it’s for very different reasons than when he was actively running with the Crips.

“I’m really not in the mix at all, as far as the ignorant shit I used to do,” Perico says. “But I still bless people with my presence, just because I want other motherfuckers that might have a vision for themself... to be able to see me and talk to me and know that I’m their homie and they can do the same [positive] shit as me and there ain’t nothing wrong with it.”

Perico is an influential man in his neighborhood these days, thanks to his fast-rising status in the rap game over the past few years. (He also owns a nearby clothing store.) After making his name known with a couple of mixtapes that came out while he was in jail, he broke through with 2016’s Shit Don’t Stop, a vibrant collection of sturdy street rhymes set to vintage funk samples, earth-moving bass, and high-altitude synth.

Given Perico’s hometown, comparisons to Dr. Dre’s G-funk sound of the early ’90s came fast and furious, though his rapping style is probably closer to DJ Quik or Bay Area legend Too $hort. And coupled with the success of likeminded MCs like YG and Kamaiyah, talk of a full-blown West Coast revival blossomed.

As he separates himself from day-to-day street life, Perico has become more and more productive as a musician. Last year, he released two excellent solo records—All Blue and 2 Tha Left—as well as a collaborative album with Jay Worthy and Cardo. Add it all up, and two things are clear: Perico is working hard to make up for time he lost to less artistic pursuits, and he’s got plenty of stories to tell. To the latter point, Perico says he has always been a “natural writer,” stretching back to childhood.

“When it came time to write essays and stories and shit, it always came easy to me,” he says. “English and literature was pretty much the only subject I was ever interested in. And then haiku poems and shit popped up like around fifth grade. I was pretty dope at that. The storyline was already in me.”

Perico knows he’s blessed to have the opportunity that’s in front of him. He did lots of “dumb shit” back in the day, he says, ended up behind bars, and saw 72 of his homies picked up as part of a federal racketeering indictment in 2014. But he made it out. He’s on the other side now, with big-name rappers behind him, positive reviews piling up, and fans tattooing his face on their bodies halfway across the globe. (“That’s crazy,” he says.)

“I feel like I’m entering the beginning stages of the dream that I didn’t even believe was possible or would happen, and I didn’t break no code or do no sucker shit,” Perico says. “I’m still at the infant stages of the music, but I’m there and now it’s just go harder and make this shit as big as possible.”