At first, G Perico refused to go to the hospital. Despite the fresh bullet in his hip and blood flowing down his leg, the South Central rapper said medical attention was unnecessary. Besides, he had a show that night at the Roxy that he couldn't miss.
The attack occurred as the rising star left his South Broadway studio near his home turf of 111th and San Pedro. You'd think a murder attempt seven months prior would have left lingering outrage, but Perico speaks with the slightly irritated nonchalance of waiting too long in line at a drive-thru.
"Man, I was in that motherfucker for an hour," he says about his brief hospital visit. "It was like, clean me up ... I'm leaving. I played the show with blood dripping down."
Despite his career having just begun, Perico's gift for mythmaking is fully formed. He's already among the most popular L.A. street rappers to emerge in the last two years, and his latest project, last week's outstanding Shit Don't Stop, cements his claim as one of the city's best.
If most of his peers emulate YG, Perico splits the difference between vintage Too $hort and DJ Quik — down to his already iconic Jheri curl. The nasal timbre of his voice comes with a built-in sneer like Eazy-E's. He's steeped in the missions and tradition of West Coast gangsta rap, but his sonics and well-scripted narratives of moneymaking schemes offer a modern feel.
When asked if he knows who shot him, he slyly smiles.
"I might have an idea," he says in a different studio in North Hollywood. "But it's like, shit, you gon' retaliate and go backwards? I've been working hard and it's finally starting to materialize. Another case and they'll forget about me that quickly. It'll just be like, 'Damn, another good one tricked out of position.' I can change people's lives. I can't fumble now."
Wearing one of his own T-shirts from his So Way Out store on South Broadway, Perico speaks with a folk hero's charisma, a born survivor's savvy and the weariness of someone who saw too much too young. His myriad tattoos offer a road map of his life and fierce allegiance to his 'hood. There's the WB logo, representing the Broadway Gangster Crips, plus his grandmother's name, a dead friend, the phrase "two up" (slang for "goodbye").
If you'd never heard his music, you could guess some of its themes from his other tattoos, which read "Fuck You Pay Me," "Bitch Please" and "Get Money." He talks about stints in juvenile hall and jail, the years trying to make a name on and off Broadway, houses raided, friends murdered, others condemned to life. Just a few weeks ago, a trial started for some of his closest friends, who got swept up in a larger federal indictment. Several have already been found guilty and sentenced to decadelong bids.
If the streets raised him, music offers his lone salvation — a fact that Perico is all too aware of. Having suffered through terrible bouts of pessimism, his goal is to motivate people with his stories and encourage those like him to start a business, go to college or get a regular job.
"My risk-taking is pretty much done," Perico says. "The biggest risk I take is just still being around, because motherfuckers will try to kill me. I don't gamble money, but you could say I'm gambling my life a little bit. I'm prepared, though."
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So was being shot a wake-up call? "Yeah, a wake-up to keep your strap on you," he says, laughing. "A reminder that now that you're successful, it's all coming. It's coming at you."
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com.