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Ah sh-t, here we go again...
~ CJ's most famous quote used in memes.
After five years on the East coast, it is time to go home...
~ CJ's first words in GTA: SA.

Carl Johnson (born April 8, 1968), also better known as CJ, is the protagonist of the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He was the first African-American protagonist in the Grand Theft Auto series.

He was voiced by the rapper Young Maylay, who sings the 1972 title song for the GTA game title and who is the cousin of Franklin's voice actor Shawn Fonteno.


Carl Johnson is a pragmatic and quite charismatic gang leader (though his charisma can be enhanced throughout the game). He can be extremely violent, ruthless and destructive when necessary. He manages his problems in a boss-like fashion, which often involves brutal shootings. That being said, most of his victims also tried to murder CJ as well. He has no problems hunting down or wiping out anyone that gets in his way - especially Ballas or cops, or committing petty crimes such as robbing houses and various places. The only characters he genuinely fears are those in a position of authority such as Frank Tenpenny, or utter psychopaths such as Catalina.

On the other hand, unlike his two predecessors (who were hardened criminals with no remorse) Carl Johnson displays much more decency and empathy. He is overprotective of his gang and his brother Sweet. He also displayed regrets immediately after defeating Big Smoke, despite the fact that Big Smoke coldly betrayed him and left him for dead somewhere in the countryside.

Some even question his intelligence, though Carl Johnson proved many times to be a skilled manager and strategist. Carl even uses manipulation and deception in order to gain what he wants, an example is when he successfully tricked Millie into giving him the access key necessary to organize the raid of the Caligula.

Unlike Ryder and Big Smoke, Carl Johnson is not interested in drugs and actually despises them. This is shown multiple times throught the game, such as when he beat a crackhead attempting to give Sweet some PCP. Despite this, however, CJ seems to get along pretty well with the Truth, who is a drug-addict and dealer. He also holds a grudge against the C.R.A.S.H. - especially Tenpenny - and the cops in general, often nicknaming them "bribe-taking assholes" or "bitches".



Carl Johnson was born in the crime ridden Los Santos suburb of Ganton. He had three siblings, Sean "Sweet", Kendl and Brian. At some point, his father left the family. At some point Sweet, CJ and Brian befriended Lance 'Ryder' Wilson and Melvin 'Big Smoke' Harris and joined the gang known as the Grove Street Families. 2 decades later in the late 1980s, Brian was killed and Carl was blamed for his death. After that, he moved to Liberty City and did petty crimes and car thefts until 1992 when his mother Beverly accidentally got killed in a drive-by shooting.

Return to Los Santos

After arriving in Los Santos, Carl was kidnapped by members of the CRASH police force and was framed for the murder of a police officer. He returned to Grove Street and began to work for the Grove Street Families again. He also encountered a member of the Los Santos Aztecas named Cesar Vialpando, his sister Kendl's boyfriend. While on a mission to weaken the Ballas, Carl and Sweet discovered that Big Smoke and Ryder was working with Frank Tenpenny, the leader of CRASH as well as the Ballas.

Carl then helped Sweet fight of Ballas members but was arrested by Tenpenny and was exiled to the vast countryside.

Betrayed by Big Smoke and Ryder

During his time in the wilderness, Smoke, Ryder and the Ballas unleashes a wave of drugs onto the city. He befriends an aging hippie with a marijuana farm named the Truth and works with him for a while.

He also forms a partnership with Cesar's deranged cousin, Catalina and robs "soft targets" with her until Carl wins a race against her new boyfriend, Claude. He wins a run-down San Fierro garage from Claude and begins fixing the business up.

He also begins working for a blind triad leader nicknamed 'Woozie'. He and Cesar succeed in killing off Ryder when a corrupt government agent named Mike Toreno blackmails Carl into working with him, in return offering to release Sweet from prison.

Later Carl ventures to the desert town of Las Venturas where he becomes Woozie's partner at his casino called the Four Dragons Casino. He also helps Woozie to get rid of the various mafia gangs that is causing him problems and infiltrates Salvatore Leone's gang.

After some odd-jobs and a brief trip back to Liberty City Carl performs a daring heist on a casino Leone owns. He also becomes the manager of the disgraced rapper Madd Dogg after thwarting a suicide attempt.

Final showdown

After Carl returned to Los Santos, he first went to the prison to pick up his brother Sweet. After Tenpenny was announced innocent, riots began all over San Andreas. Carl then takes control over most of the streets of Los Santos. Sweet then finds out where Big Smoke is hiding, then both he and Carl go pay him a visit.

After Carl killed Smoke, Tenpenny then appeared and tells Carl his plan to escape with the money. Carl and Sweet then chase down Tenpenny in a high-speed chase, which leads to the death of the corrupted officer. After everything is over, Carl and his friends get their first Golden Record.


After the final mission, Kendl tells Carl where he's going, Carl responds with saying Just going to hang out in the streets. He then gets a call from Catalina while having sex with Claude, witch leads to Carl calling her sick. Carl can then go roam the streets like all other GTA protagonists.

Villainous Acts

Although CJ is one of the less ruthless protagonists (of course, when compared with Claude or Tommy Vercetti), you can still classify as a villain by the fact that he has direct connections with mafias and criminal gangs.

And, obviously like any protagonist in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the player has the choice and ability to kill thousands and hundreds of innocent people, making Carl a brutal killer.

During free roam

All of these crimes are non-canonic and only up to the player choice:

  • Punching and abusing people.
  • Gunning down people.
  • Car-jacking people, stealing parked cars and cars in luxury galleries.
  • Driving recklessly, crushing people.
  • Vandalize cars or buildings.
  • Robbing shops.

During the Story-line

  • In the mission Home Invasion, he robbed a house and stole crates that belonged to a military veteran.
  • In the mission Robbing Uncle Sam, he raids national guard base along with Ryder, killing several National Guard soldiers who try to stop him (as well as potentially running over several civilians while trying to escape if the player so chooses).
  • In the mission Madd Dogg's Rhymes, he steals Madd Dogg's rhyme book.
  • In the mission Management Issues, he kidnaps and killed Alan Crawford.
  • In the mission Gray imports, he killed Andre.
  • In the mission Badlands, he killed the witness. One of his most evil acts (though he was more or less forced to do so by Tenpenny). Although this is mitigated by the fact that he did it more or less under duress from Tenpenny.
  • In the mission Small Town Bank, he and Catalina were robbing a bank. The player has the option to kill the guards and customers inside the bank, and basically has no choice but to shoot their way out of the bank afterwards, killing sheriff's deputies who respond in the process.
  • In Deconstruction, he murders a construction crew on a building site simply because they harassed his sister, and buries the foreman alive under concrete (while he was hiding in a portable toilet).
  • In the mission Snail Trail, he murders the reporter and the journalist under Tenpenny's orders. It is also his most evil act (and likely the only moment Carl Johnson came close to cross the Moral Event Horizon). 
  • In the mission Black Project, he breaks to a restricted military base and steals a black project from the military, killing several soldiers in the process.
  • In the mission Fender Ketchups, he scares Johnny Sindacco by driving him around with his car.
  • In the mission Architectural Espionage, he steals blueprints for Caligula's Palace casino, killing several police officers who try to stop him (as well as innocent civilians if the player so chooses).
    • He later robs the casino alongside Woozie and his crew.
  • In the mission Vertical Bird, he breaks to military ship, kills several soldiers and steal a Hydra, and then shoots rockets at other Hydras who try to kill him for stealing one of the Hydras. He later uses the stolen Hydra to blow up several ships (the reason they needed to be destroyed is never revealed).

In Memes

Just like Big Smoke, Carl has also appeared in the internet-online memes. Carl's quote and scene from the beginning of the game, have been over-used as memes. The meme started to spread as a wildfire since 2019, when the famous YouTuber by the name FlyingKitty, released his parody-video about the quote, which gained 3 million views, making the meme blow up much more.



  • Carl is by far one of the most successful Grand Theft Auto's protagonist ever. He successfully managed to destroy the Ballas and to seize Los Santos, to kill Tenpenny and his corrupt fellows, to eliminate Big Smoke and Ryder for their betrayals, to rob the Caligula, to become wealthy and to gain ultimate power for himself. Thus, he murdered nearly anyone who were in his way; only Catalina, Mike Toreno and a few other minor villains got away from him.
    • Carl is also one of the most polyvalent protagonists. He possesses a large number of abilities which make him one of the most competent and strongest GTA's characters so far.
    • In addition, the player can upgrade his abilities by training.
  • Carl is the first African-American protagonist of the Grand Theft Auto series, with Vic and Franklin being the second and third ones.
  • Carl was the first GTA Protagonist to not actually kill the antagonist of his game (although Tenpenny did die, it was due to injuries sustained in a traffic accident, which Carl was only indirectly responsible for at best).
  • Carl is the first protagonist of the series who says the word "fuck".
  • Carl is one of the most popular GTA's protagonists.



2D Universe
Grand Theft Auto 2
Billy Bob Bean | Claude Speed | Johnny Zoo

Grand Theft Auto Advance
King Courtney | Vinnie

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Chan Jaoming | Huang Lee | Mini Gun Wonsu Assassin | Rudy D'Avanzo | Wu Lee | Zhou Ming

3D Universe
Grand Theft Auto III
Claude | Catalina | Curly Bob | Donald Love | King Courtney | Miguel | Phil Cassidy | Salvatore Leone | Toni Cipriani

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Auntie Poulet | Gonzalez | Lance Vance | Leo Teal | Phil Cassidy | Ricardo Diaz | Sonny Forelli | Tommy Vercetti | The Psycho

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
B Dup | Big Smoke | Carl Johnson | Eddie Pulaski | Frank Tenpenny | Jizzy B. | OG Loc | Ryder | Snakehead | T-Bone Mendez

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
JD O'Toole | Kazuki Kasen | Massimo Torini | Ned Burner | Paulie Sindacco | Phil Cassidy | Salvatore Leone | Toni Cipriani | Vincenzo Cilli

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Bryan Forbes | Diego & Armando Mendez | Lance Vance | Marty Jay Williams | Phil Cassidy | Sergeant Jerry Martinez | Victor Vance |

HD Universe
Grand Theft Auto IV
Abdul Amir | Billy Grey | Brian Jeremy | Clarence Little | Clay Simons | Dardan Petrela | Darko Brevic | Derrick McReary | Dimitri Rascalov | Dwayne Forge | Eddie Low | Francis McReary | Gerald McReary | Jim Fitzgerald | Jimmy Pegorino | Johnny Klebitz | Jim Fitzgerald | Luis Lopez | Marki Ashvilli | Mikhail Faustin | Niko Bellic | Patrick McReary | Playboy X | Ray Boccino | Ray Bulgarin | Ray's Goon | Rocco Pelosi | Roman's Kidnapper | Teddy Benavidez | Terry Thorpe | Timur | Vic Manzano | Vince Pelosi | Yusuf Amir

Grand Theft Auto V
Andreas Sanchez | Brad Snider | Clay Simons | D | Devin Weston | Don Percival | Elwood O'Neil | Enzo Bonelli | Franklin Clinton | Jimmy De Santa | Johnny Klebitz | Lamar Davis | Lester Crest | Martin Madrazo | Michael De Santa | Molly Schultz | Ortega | Paige Harris | Patrick McReary | Peter Dreyfuss | Simeon Yetarian | Steve Haines | Stretch | Terry Thorpe | Trevor Philips | Wei Cheng

Grand Theft Auto Online
Avery Duggan | Avon Hertz | Cliffford | GTA Online Protagonists

Altruist Cult | Angels of Death Motorcycle Club | Ballas | Bulgarin Family | C.R.A.S.H. | Cholos | Cliffford Mercenaries | Colombian Cartel | Diaz's Gang | Faustin-Rascalov Family | Federal Investigation Bureau | Forelli Family | International Affairs Agency | Leone Family | Liberty City Triads | Los Santos Triads | Los Santos Vagos | Merryweather Security | O'Neil Brothers | Russian Mafia | Sicilian Mafia | Southside Hoods | SRS | Street Sharks | The Professionals | Trevor Philips Enterprises | Zombotech Corporation

Beta Only
Darkel | Domestobot

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