G Perico, of South Central Los Angeles, is a throwback, in a sense. I’m not just talking about his trademark Jheri curl or his music’s late-’90s, G-funk sensibilities — although those do contribute to an almost eerie sense that the cloning lab from Jurassic Park somehow got a sample of Eazy-E’s curl activator-infused DNA and decided to get into the music game.
Instead, what gives Perico that sense of agelessness, like a time traveler plucked from the past and transplanted to the present day, is his ethos. Whereas modern era music entertainment theory seems to hold that the gimmick is everything, Peri sees the image, the presentation, the packaging as secondary to one thing: Authenticity.
Back in the day, LA rappers were often identified more readily by their neighborhood affiliation than their record label or the designer label tag on their clothing (to be fair, half of the West Coast was signed to Death Row back then, and pretty much everybody wore either Dickies and Nike Cortez or Levis and Chucks). G Perico harkens back to that era musically, stylistically, and philosophically.
He never puts on airs or fronts about the things that are important to him. He doesn’t flaunt his wealth or perpetrate a superstar image. He remains approachable, down-to-earth, and focused on the same things that mattered to him before the fame: His family, his homies, his neighborhood, and his set. His music makes this evident; he doesn’t try to dazzle with lyrical trickery. His flow is simple and straightforward, his beats full of that traditional west coast bounce.
He debuted his unique, yet familiar musical approach earlier this year with All Blue, but like the independent west coast gangsta rappers of yesteryear, spent little time resting on his laurels. Instead, he got right back to creating, crafting an immaculate follow-up that continues in the same vein of South LA gangster funk called 2 Tha Left.
After cruising the city with 2 Tha Left on repeat, I took a final listen before braving the Northbound 101 traffic to visit Perico in his North Hollywood studio, where he graciously shared his insights into the creative process on the latest album. We chopped it up about a number of topics, from the subtle ways he tweaked his musical direction to his thoughts on the current sociopolitical climate of America, as he broke down all the ways in which 2 Tha Left reflects his old-school values and genuine street credibility.
Let’s talk about the title of 2 Tha Left — a lot of people are not going to get it, but it’s deeper than what they might think. How did you come up with that title and what was your first thought when realized that this was the name of your next album?
I had dropped “to the left” a couple times in there and that’s the perfect depiction of my lifestyle. I grew up blue, I talk about blue shit, so that’s my whole story. It’s based on the shit that I been through and my affiliations, so it’s no sense in me hiding and trying to pretend. It wouldn’t be fun, it wouldn’t be believable. Of course, that’s some Crip shit, my homies, my neighborhood, my area, is what molded me, my way of thinking, and the way I operate. It’s me stepping out into the world and doing what I do. It’s all based from my family, my hood. It was only right.
Between All Blue and now 2 Tha Left you really do put your philosophy on front street — it’s very easy to see what you’re about. How do you still surprise people with the direction of the music?
I’m not necessarily trying to surprise, but I think it might. My whole thing is just being creative. When I do music I don’t go to a fantasy world. A lot of people that call themself emcees just spit a gang of clever lines, but my shit is just more so lifestyle. Maybe a few of the choices, like “Amerikkka,” might surprise people that I even think on that type of level or understand that type of shit.
Absolutely. One thing that surprised me were some of the guests. Mozzy and Curren$y are not LA artists. Mozzy is from Sacramento and Curren$y is from New Orleans, so that felt like a bit of a curveball. How did those collaborations come about and how are they different from working with LA artists?
They came about because me and Mozzy and Curren$y got good relationships as far as the music and business is concerned. It was only natural. I like to collaborate, but I don’t do it a lot. Based on the way the industry is now, and the way shit is with the internet… I;ve seen so many people do songs and collaborate together that probably never knew each other, they just did songs, and the next thing you know they dissing each other and beefing and all this shit. For a person like me, I can’t really have that.
When I first met Mozzy was right here, we did three songs that night, and then the same shit with Curren$y. It was a dope vibe. Going back to before, I guess you can say I was trying to surprise because I wasn’t just trying to do the typical LA shit. It’s like I see these n—– every day or every time I go out, so it’s pretty typical that I would have an LA artist. I did reach in my bag of tricks for that.
So having chemistry in the studio is important to you?
Hell yeah! That’s the most important shit. Like, we could be the best of friends and cool, but if we don’t vibe musically or click or understand what each other is trying to do, then it’s really no reason. If it’s not tight, then we shouldn’t do it.
What’s your favorite song on 2 Tha Left?
My favorite song right now is “Everybody,” but it changes. It might be different next week
Why is that your favorite right now?
Because that’s just the vibe right now. My whole thing is just… I was raised different. The way I operate has never been solely about me. I know I can come up. I made a lot of sacrifices in certain positions I can be in just making sure the people around me — as long as they working too — are straight.
If I pull up in a Bentley, I can’t have everybody smashed in my shit. We need everybody on. That’s really the motto.
And then it lasts way longer. If I have a million dollars, and my partner has $800,000 or $1.2 (million) and he got $700(,000)… say something happen and I go down to 50 grand… [mimics dialing a phone] “Ay bro,” and then I’m back in position. It’s all about building that solid structure.
“Everybody” is definitely one of the more fun songs on the album as well. My personal favorite song on the album is “Other Side.” Is that based on a true story?
Yes. A lot of my first girlfriends was from the other side of the tracks, and shit would be going on in the hood with this end and that end and I may be a person that’s involved in it, but I gotta go over there to see my girl.
One time some n—– came and tried to surround the house, but it got cleared out pretty good.
How do you reconcile the balance between the gangbang songs, such as “Affiliated,” and message songs like “Amerikkka”?
I’m a human. Like many of us, I’m a walking contradiction. Just depending on how extreme you are with certain shit, is how extreme your contradictions. Because you wanna do good, you wanna see good, but of course bad shit happens.
When you there, involved, you definitely don’t wanna be the prey. The music is just me being a product of the environment. Everybody share some type of affiliation, but everybody has also experienced some type of racism with the law or rights being violated. ‘Cause that’s all they do in the ghetto. Every single cop violates your civil rights and then you grow up thinking that you have no civil rights. I didn’t even realize that ’til I grew up and started going to other places.
Speaking of… what do you think of the Meek Mill situation?
I think it’s beyond fucked up. It’s, like, the epitome of modern-day slavery. It’s like, this n—- successful, he did some shit when he was 19. How the fuck are you still on probation and still getting scrutinized? You already paid your debt to society, what the fuck is that about?
He helping, I’m pretty sure, hundreds of people. That shit don’t make one bit of sense. It just shows the level of racism that still exists. Classism too. It’s not going on in Beverly Hills, it’s going on in the ghetto.
They give these dudes a case, make them plead out because they naturally don’t wanna do five years. Then the crimes that n—– get in trouble for, having a pistol or what not… There’s n—– doing crimes against people that make people crazy, like rapists and kidnappers and shit. They creating a whole different type of monster by doing shit like that.
He’s helping someone else to not go down that road, so Meek being in jail is not helping shit.
Is that something that you aspire to do? To be able to go back home and do things for people?
Definitely. I feel like it’s a duty, part of me being a human. You gotta be a cold, heartless… It’s gotta be something missing inside of you for you to not want to do that, or for you to feel like you better than everybody because you have some type of success.
The world doesn’t revolve around just one person. Whatever your success was, I’m pretty sure there was somebody there to help you. As far as being human first, then being Black, from the ghetto, and knowing all the shit you up against from being six, seven years old, you gotta lend some type of support, even if you only help one person.
How do you feel about where LA rap is right now?
If it was a piece of bread I don’t think all the peanut butter would be spread out evenly as far as attention, but the west coast scene, as of right now, is re-emerging and it’s so many different sub-genres in LA. It’s definitely about to go major again. You got all different type of music and everybody’s shit is rising up. It’s a lot of unity, which doesn’t really happen a lot in LA.
There’s such a strong, mid-’90s LA vibe to your music. It reminds me of the stuff that was on the radio when I was younger, like a Westside Connection or Dogg Pound. You like to get real west coast. Are you deliberately trying to bring back that vibe, or are you just making the kind of music that you grew up on too?
I’m definitely not trying to bring nothing back! My intention is not to bring back shit. It’s to bring myself and all my partners forward. I listen to a lot of old shit. I just like to study the game. The niggas from the ’90s listened to a lot of ’70s and ’80s shit and they sampled that.
I listen to the new shit, but I don’t really study it. I listen to it to make sure my bounce is on time. I don’t listen to anybody else because I don’t wanna be subliminally stealing they lines. It’s so many people that sound exactly the same right now and say the exact same shit. If people ziggin’ I wanna zag.
2 Tha Left is out today on So Way Out/Priority Records. Get it here.