In the latest wave of artists that fans have handpicked to keep the West Coast resurgence going, G. Perico is at the forefront. The slim, jheri-curled, slick-talking rapper has a look reminiscent of an era long gone, yet his sound speaks much more to today’s climate. Often compared to California staples like DJ Quik and Eazy-E—which the South Central native understands and appreciates—Perico is determined to make his own lane, and leave his deep-rooted history with the streets behind him.

It’s a scenario that’s not unique; Perico grew up in the streets and got caught up in that life one too many times. With multiple jail bids behind him, the longtime writer turned to music as a way out, but just when it seemed like he would finally progress in his rap career, his past life would keep trying to pull him back in.

While in his neighborhood just before a major show at the legendary Roxy last year, Perico was cornered and shot at multiple times. One bullet connected with his hip, and though a hospital visit was mandatory, he only stayed an hour before still making it to the venue and performing—blood dripping down his leg and all.

Things are different now, though. As we sit in his studio, built in a room in a Hollywood Hills mansion he now calls “home,” the self–proclaimed “street poet” is finally seeing a real change. He’s gearing up for his first headlining show, artists are lining up to work with him, and there are offers from labels on the table. However, he still operates a store from the neighborhood he grew up in, and he understands that one wrong move can change everything. One thing is for certain: G. Perico is not going to let his past affect his future.

Growing up, how important was music to you?

Shit, it was everywhere. You can’t escape music, especially in the ghetto. But I can’t say I grew up like “Wow, I want to do this too!”

You’ve said in interviews that you got into the street life pretty early. Prior to that, did you have aspirations of anything else, or was the streets pretty much what you were set on? I know that you can draw pretty well, and you’ve said you’re pretty nice at ball.

You know how in school, they put those ideas in your head of what to be? I might have had that for a little while, but there was nothing that I was really set on. But you know, basketball could have been something. I probably could have been a basketball player, but that shit hit the back burner quick, because I got wrapped up in the streets in junior high school. That shit clearly didn’t go far.

What made you realize that doing music was a better route for you?

I saw the possibilities. Around the time, YG, Nipsey Hussle…all of them was making their transition and blowing up. It was so close to me, because YG used to come to my block back in the day and stop through. Just seeing that, I knew where it could go. I just felt like I had the same talent, and I peeped how they operate. It’s a team, you know what I’m saying? I just noticed that everybody that don’t have a team, they might be dope as fuck, but that shit don’t leave past the garage or wherever they’re recording. Everybody got a team and a movement. I naturally already had a movement just based on being from around here, and everybody in the community and shit.

What made you first record a song, and what was the initial reception?

I probably recorded a song I think right before the period of the “Shit Don’t Stop” cover. I think I had to be like 16, maybe. We were just fucking around. Initially, it was just street love. Right now, the industry is paying attention now, but back then, it was just the streets. And I was cool with that. My focus is the people, so that was what I wanted. The people fucked with it and gave me the confidence to do this.

It was soon after that you had to do another bid, right?

Yeah, that slowed up my momentum, but it helped me get focused too. I had music floating around while I was in there, and it helped at least keep my name in the conversation.

Wasn’t that bid around when A$AP Yams actually found your music?

Yep! Yams came across my music in like 2013. I was doing a bid in Lancaster State Prison, and Yams came across “Bustin.” They was listening to “Bustin’” I guess in New York. Jay Worthy from Canada, I think he put them up on it. So when I came home, I met Yams. He’d just hit me when he was in town and whatnot, or he’d just call me and give me advice and shit, because people wanted to sign me back then. He’d give me advice on do’s and don’ts and shit like that. He was a cool dude. I miss Yams.

That’s dope that he was really looking out for you and helping guide you. Do you have someone like that in your life now?

I have a number of people right now. I have my partners Westside Webb, Lil Ant, and Poly Boy. I have my management, Pun. They pretty much help me paint my picture a little more vivid and the shit that I’m trying to do. It’s a team. You can’t do everything by yourself. The only thing you can do well by yourself is rap. Maybe. Rap is art; that’s not business. So rap business is different, and you’ve got to transfer your art into business, depending on how deep you want to go.

I know that you have a pretty good team in place, even getting a PR team at the beginning. How’d you build the whole team?

It was trial and error. I got my partners Lil Ant and Poly Boy who just believe in everything I do, because I have a history of success. Of course that was like, street nigga success, but still—they believe in anything I do. Then as far as management and PR, that was trial and error too. I’m satisfied with my management and my new PR and shit right now. I made sure I had them in place because I know that’s necessary things for an artist, especially an independent one. If you’re signed, they’re gonna do it for you anyway. A lot of people don’t care to know what’s going on, and it says a lot when shit starts happening. But for an independent artist, there’s like maybe three or four necessary things you need, and that’s that.

You also have a store back in your neighborhood. Did you create this with the sole intent to sell G. Perico merch, or was it just a revenue stream for you at first?

Initially, I opened it just to sell my merchandise. It was just to let people know that So Way Out is right here, and this part of the city is where I come from and what I’m representing. It was a hub for people to identify with, and it just showed that I’m really part of the community. A lot of rappers are really not what they rap. That’s probably not a bad thing because like I said, rap is art. It’s hard to be a gangster and a successful artist. It’s damn near impossible. Even with me, I had to change a lot of things that I do, because I was a full-time street nigga. I ain’t really plan to do nothing else. It sounds crazy, but I don’t care. That’s my life. So once I understood that part, I put the team together and took off.

You’ve been seeing more progress with music as every month goes by, but you’ve obviously had your fair share of issues back on your turf too. Do you find it to be true that with fame comes a lot of jealousy? Or do you think these issues date back to things you got caught up in before the music started popping off?

With fame comes a lot of jealousy for anybody. Money and having a big personality come with having a lot of hate. And then yeah of course if you’ve got an actual active past, that shit could put gas on the fire. But I mean, that’s life, you know? I’m not gonna stop living my life. Shit is changing now. Every project is gonna be different. I don’t just write raps as shit that rhymes and makes sense. I’m talking about my life, and I’m spitting game. I ain’t just rapping! I’m telling stories and shit. With my 2016 project, Shit Don’t Stop, I got shot while I was recording. My house got raided, my parole officer was fucking with me, so I was missing money because I couldn’t take trips. Now with my latest release, All Blue, I’m a little more well known. People are kind of expecting it now. I’m just in a better space right now in life, but it’s still gangsta as a motherfucker. I’m here. I could have been taken the little bit of money I made and took my store to the other side of town, but I’m keeping it here. I want to show my community that we can make it.

Which artist’s business model would you say impressed or inspired you the most?

It’s a lot of different things. The closest to me would be Nipsey Hussle, the way he branded and created the power and the clothing and the audience. Then all the way up to Jay Z and Dr. Dre and shit, to where they’re moguls and have so many different things under their umbrellas. I look at everybody that’s doing good business. There’s something that I can take from them and incorporate it in my shit.

What was behind the decision to do the jheri curl?

I got the braids today! But the curl, it’s something that people grew up on around here. I’m a little older, I’m 29, so I got to see that shit with my own eyes and see how tight it was. I’ve always been interested, so I think whether I was rapping or not, I’d have a curl. I have old pictures before all that shit with my shit curly. It’s just a shock to people probably that I’m not running around with dreadlocks or a nappy ass fro like everybody else. That’s really just all it is: just people not used to moving at the beat of their own drum. So of course it would seem out of the ordinary because everybody is so much the same these days!

What’s your ultimate goal?

My ultimate goal is legacy: to be remembered for my art and being a mogul. I just want to leave something for my family, for generations!

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