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After five years on the East coast, it is time to go home...
~ CJ's first lines in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Ah shit, here we go again...
~ Carl's quote after being thrown out of the police car by Tenpenny, which had since became a meme.

Carl Johnson, also better known as CJ, is the protagonist of the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He is 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 Grand Theft Auto 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 throughout 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, doing petty crimes with Joey Leone until 1992, when his mother Beverly was 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 officer Ralph Pendlebury. He returned to Grove Street and began to work for the Grove Street Families again, slowly regaining respect from his resentful brother and his other friends.

At one point, a concerned Sweet asks Carl to follow Kendl and find her love interest, who turns out to be Cesar Vialpando, a leader of the Varrios Los Aztecas. Although initially hostile, the two men eventually befriend each other, and would later work in their common interests against the narcotic infestation spawned by the Ballas and Vagos.

Betrayed by Big Smoke and Ryder and move to San Fierro

While on a mission to weaken the Ballas, Carl is contacted by Cesar to meet him at an area not far from a Ballas drug hideout in order to give more information on the drive-by shooting. During the meetup, they spy on the hideout and CJ is horrified upon seeing Big Smoke and Ryder along with Frank Tenpenny, the leader of CRASH, as well as Ballas gangsters. Cesar reveals that C.R.A.S.H. ordered the drive-by with the intent of killing Sweet, and have been working with the Ballas, Big Smoke, and Ryder to wipe out the Families and profit off the drug trade.

Suspecting that Sweet is heading to a trap, Carl tells Cesar to help Kendl flee. He then helped the injured Sweet fight off the Ballas Gangsters. Soon, LSPD reinforcements arrive, and Sweet was arrested, while Carl was taken to Angel Pine by C.R.A.S.H.

During his time in the wilderness, Tenpenny had CJ to continue working for them, first by taking out a witness protected by the FBI. 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. In a rural race, he wins the respect of triad leader Wu Zi Mu. He also forms a partnership with Cesar's deranged cousin, Catalina and robs "soft targets" with her until she decides to ditch him for Claude. Carl wins a run-down San Fierro garage from Claude in another badlands race. When Tenpenny betrays The Truth and sends his henchmen on his weed farm, Carl helps The Truth to destroy all the crops and the pursing police helicopter before heading to San Fierro. He recruits helpers from The Truth to use the garage as a front for his machinations.

Carl begins working for Woozie in return for their assistance on the matter, and along with Cesar they identified members of the Loco Syndicate - Jizzy, Ryder, Mike Toreno and T-Bone Mendez. Infiltrating the organization, Carl eventually kills all four, though he is somewhat remorseful of Ryder's death.

Mike Toreno, who reveals his survival via a decoy, demands Carl to work for him in exchange to secure Sweet's release. To this end Carl took on perilous missions for him, purchased an aircraft graveyard and trained himself in aviation.

Later, Carl ventures to Las Venturas where he continues to run errands for Woozie and the Four Dragons Casino. He also assists in planning their heist on the Caliguila Casino jointly ran by three mafia families - the Leones, Sindaccos and Forellis. Using his previous connection with Joey Leone and distrust between the three syndicates, Carl gains the favor of don Salvatore Leone. He kills a hit squad targeting Salvatore, and later devastates the Forellis back at Liberty City while also helping Paul, Maccer and Ken Rosenberg to escape Salvatore's clutches.

Eventually, the triads and Carl perform a daring heist on the casino. After also saving disgraced Rapper Madd Dogg, whose career he helped to ruin, Carl agrees to become his manager.

Final showdown

After Carl returned to Los Santos, he helped Madd Dogg reclaim a mansion from the Vagos, then took on a final job for Toreno to steal a fighter jet and eliminate espionage ships, who in exchange had Sweet released from prison. Unable to convince his brother of his expansions around San Fierro and Las Venturas, he agrees to aid Sweet instead. He also helps Madd Dogg in reclaiming his career from OG Loc. When Tenpenny was announced innocent, riots began all over San Andreas. Carl then takes control over most of the streets of Los Santos with Sweet and helps Cesar as well. Eventually, they learn of Smoke's address and decide to exact their revenge. After telling Sweet to remain on the vehicle, Carl fights through Smoke's minions and eventually kills him.

Right after Smoke's death, Tenpenny appeared and reveals his malicious intentions, threatening Carl to hand him Smoke's drug money. Carl survives Tenpenny's attempt on his life by faking Sweet's presence, and subsequently escapes the burning crack den. Sweet hangs onto Tenpenny's fire truck as the latter attempts to flee Los Santos, forcing Carl to give pursuit. Retrieving his brother, Carl rides shotgun and kills hostile reinforcements while Sweet continues the chase. Eventually, Tenpenny loses control on the Ganton overpass and crashes, dying of his wounds. After everything is over, Carl and his friends celebrate in his house.


When Kendl asks Carl where he's going, he responds "Just going to hang out in the streets". He then gets a call from Catalina while having sex with Claude, much to his disgust.

Villainous Acts/Crimes

Though Carl is one of the less ruthless protagonists (when compared to the likes of Claude, Trevor or Tommy), he still has villainous qualities, having connections with various gangs and syndicates such as the GSF, Triads and even Mike Toreno's clandestine operations, not to mention the optional crimes committed in free roam by the player.

During free roam

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

  • Punching, bludgeoning, and stabbing people.
  • Gunning down people.
  • Car-jacking people, stealing parked cars, planes, bikes, boats, and cars in luxury galleries.
  • Driving recklessly, crushing people or destroying their vehicles.
  • Setting fire to vehicles or pedestrians.
  • Committing vigilantism by hunting and killing criminals after stealing a police vehicle, despite having no qualifications to do so. This is arguably one of the most anti-villainous actions Carl can do.
  • Vandalizing public and private property.
  • Robbing shops.
  • Trespassing by either illegally entering cities or breaking into private properties.
  • Taking the prostitutes with the pimp cars.
  • Robbing homes.

During the Story-line


  • Freddy (OG Loc)
  • Alan Crawford (Management Issues)
  • Andre (Gray Imports)
  • Little Weasel (Doberman)
  • Kane (Los Sepulcros)
  • Derek (Tanker Commander)
  • The Snakehead (The Da Nang Thang)
  • Jizzy B. (Ice Cold Killa)
  • T-Bone Mendez (Pier 69)
  • Ryder (Pier 69)
  • Marco Forelli (Saint Mark's Bistro)
  • Benny (Key to Her Heart)
  • Millie Perkins (optional)
  • Eddie Pulaski (High Noon)
  • Big Poppa (A Home in the Hills)
  • Big Smoke (End of the Line)
  • A cashier of Pizza Stack (Ryder)
  • Alan Crawford's girlfriend (Management Issues)
  • An informant
  • A foreman
  • A pimp
  • A couple of punters
  • A prostitute
  • A preacher
  • Preacher's protection
  • A reporter
  • A journalist
  • A dossier carrier
  • Numerous Ballas members
  • Numerous Vagos members
  • Numerous crack dealers
  • Numerous Russian mafia members
  • Numerous soldiers
  • Numerous police officers
  • Numerous SWAT members
  • Numerous FBI agents
  • Numerous warehouse workers
  • Numerous crack factory workers
  • Numerous Da Nang Boys members
  • Numerous San Fierro Rifa members
  • Numerous survivalists
  • Numerous snake farmers
  • Numerous Forelli family members
  • Numerous Sindacco family members
  • Numerous engineers
  • Numerous delivery employees of Berkley's
  • Numerous workers
  • Numerous security guards
  • Numerous bodyguards of Jizzy B.
  • Numerous bodyguards of Madd Dogg
  • Numerous guards of Caligula's Casino


  • A vehicle in Liberty City
  • Burglary of Colonel Fuhrberger's home
  • Robbery of a national guard depot
  • A stereo van
  • Madd Dogg's rhyme book
  • Robberies of a liquor store, a bank, a betting shop, and a gas station in the countryside
  • A tanker and a gas tank trailer
  • A sedan from a woman
  • Two cars from Otto's Car Showroom
  • A vehicle from the docks in Easter Basin
  • An SUV from a woman
  • A military jetpack
  • An unknown green goo
  • Sticks of dynamite
  • City Planning Building plans
  • Four police bikes
  • A sky crane helicopter and a security van
  • A private jet owned by the Forellis
  • Robbery of Caligula's Casino
  • A military jet
  • A SWAT tank


  • A house in East Los Santos
  • A police helicopter
  • Multiple delivery vans of Berkley's
  • A construction site firm
  • A decoy chopper employed by Mike Toreno
  • Loco Syndicate's crack factory
  • Multiple agent helicopters
  • A cargo plane
  • A plastics factory
  • Multiple military jets and spy ships
  • Numerous vehicles


  • Madd Dogg's mansion
  • Da Nang Boys freighter
  • Area 69
  • A quarry
  • A military compound
  • Sherman Dam


  • Vandalism
  • Illegal racing competitions across Los Santos and countryside
  • The kidnapping and murder of Alan Crawford and his girlfriend
  • The framing of District Attorney in San Fierro
  • Assault on several ambulances
  • Escorting a San Fierro Rifa vehicle

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 three million views, making the meme blow up much more.



  • Carl is by far one of the most successful protagonists in the Grand Theft Auto series. 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. As a result, he eliminated nearly all of his opposition, with only Catalina, Mike Toreno and a few other minor villains escaping his wrath.
    • 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 of the protagonists in the Grand Theft Auto series.
    • In addition, the player can upgrade his abilities by training.
  • Carl is the first African-American protagonist of the Grand Theft Auto series, with Victor Vance and Franklin Clinton being the second and third ones.
  • Carl was the first Grand Theft Auto protagonist to not directly kill the main antagonist in his respective game, as Tenpenny dies from blunt force trauma after driving off the bridge while pursued by Carl and Sweet.
  • Carl is the first protagonist of the series who says the word "fuck".



Grand Theft Auto
The Police | Robert "Bubby" Seragliano | Uncle Fu | El Burro | Samuel Deever | Brother Marcus | Dumb Kurt | Chu Ying | No Chin | Wun Tun Chun | Bryson

Grand Theft Auto London
Harold Cartwright | Jack Parkinson | Albert & Archie Crisp

Grand Theft Auto 2
Claude Speed | Billy Bob Bean | Dr. LaBrat | Jerkov | Sunbeam | Hiroshi| Refried Noodle | Johnny Zoo | Red Valdez | Trey Welsh | Elmo | Uno Carb | Chesti-Kov | Yonsi Zoo San | Johnny Rotten | Tetsuo

Grand Theft Auto III
Claude | Catalina | Salvatore Leone | Miguel | Donald Love | Ray Machowski | Fernando Martinez | Leon McAffrey | Asuka Kasen | King Courtney | Toni Cipriani | Marty Chonks | Phil Cassidy | Lee Chong | Curly Bob | Mike Forreli

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Tommy Vercetti | Sonny Forelli | Lance Vance | Ricardo Diaz | Phil Cassidy | Auntie Poulet | Umberto Robina | Juan Cortez | Alex Shrub | Jack Howitzer | Avery Carrington | Gonzalez | Leo Teal | The Psycho | Hilary King | Cam Jones | Donald Love | Victor Vance | Mr. Black

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Carl Johnson | Sweet Johnson | Cesar Vialpando | Frank Tenpenny | Richard Burns | Big Smoke | Ryder | Eddie Pulaski | Jizzy B. | T-Bone Mendez | Catalina | OG Loc | Johnny Sindacco | Salvatore Leone | B Dup | Claude | Snakehead | Berkley | Tommy Vercetti

Grand Theft Auto Advance
Mike | Vinnie | Colombian Cartel Lieutenant | King Courtney | Asuka Kasen

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Toni Cipriani | Massimo Torini | Paulie Sindacco | Vincenzo Cilli | Salvatore Leone | Leon McAffrey | Donald Love | JD O'Toole | Ned Burner | Phil Cassidy | Kazuki Kasen | Jane Hopper | Cedric Fotheringay

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Victor Vance | Jerry Martinez | Diego & Armando Mendez | Marty Jay Williams | Lance Vance | Ricardo Diaz | Phil Cassidy | Bryan Forbes | Marty Williams' cousin | Trailer Park Mafia

Grand Theft Auto IV
Niko Bellic | Dimitri Rascalov | Jimmy Pegorino | Darko Brevic | Vlad Glebov | Ray Bulgarin | Brucie Kibbutz | Karen Daniels | Manny Escuela | Tom Rivas | Mikhail Faustin | Ray Boccino | Little Jacob | Elizabeta Torres | Packie McReary | Derrick McReary | Francis McReary | Gerald McReary | Playboy X | Dwayne Forge | Johnny Klebitz | Luis Lopez | Roman's Kidnapper | Clarence Little | Dardan Petrela | Judge Grady | Jim Fitzgerald | Johnny Barbosa | Phil Bell | Joseph DiLeo | Luca Silvestri | The Cook | Teddy Benavidez | Eddie Low | The Fixer | Jon Gravelli | Wedding Assassin | Trunchez Brothers | Jeff Harlingford | Adam Dimayev | Eduard Borodin | Isaac Roth | Mori Green | United Liberty Paper Contact | Aiden O'Malley

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Johnny Klebitz | Billy Grey | Ray Boccino | Brian Jeremy | Jim Fitzgerald | Terry Thorpe | Clay Simons | James "Jimmy" Matthews | Ed McCornish | Thomas Stubbs | Niko Bellic | Luis Lopez | Dimitri Rascalov | Roman's Kidnapper | Ray's Goon | Lester Arnold

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Luis Lopez | Ray Bulgarin | Rocco Pelosi | Timur | Vince Pelosi | Yusuf Amir | Niko Bellic | Johnny Klebitz | Vic Manzano | Margot | Marki Ashvilli | Billy Grey | Dimitri Rascalov | Ahmed Khaleel

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

Grand Theft Auto V
Michael De Santa | Trevor Philips | Franklin Clinton | Devin Weston | Steve Haines | Wei Cheng | Stretch | Molly Schultz | Don Percival | Lester Crest | Lamar Davis | Nigel | Mrs. Thornhill | Ursula | Alonzo | Derrick | Dave Norton | Brad Snider | Martin Madrazo | Jimmy De Santa | Simeon Yetarian | Andreas Sanchez | Cris Formage | Rocco Pelosi | Peter Dreyfuss | Clay Simons | Terry Thorpe | D | Johnny Klebitz | Tao Cheng | Chef | Christian Feltz | Daryl Johns | Eddie Toh | Gustavo Mota | Hugh Welsh | Karim Detz | Karl Abolaji | Norm Richards | Paige Harris | Patrick McReary | Rickie Lukens | Taliana Martinez | Elwood O'Neil | Beverly Felton | Joe | Josef | Lost Fugitive | Abigail Mathers | Josh Bernstein | Ortega | Enzo Bonelli | Billy Grey | Curtis Weaver | Glenn Scoville | Larry Tupper | Ralph Ostrowski | United Liberty Paper Contact | Gianni | Tracker | Jock Cranley | The Infinity Killer

Grand Theft Auto Online
Main Game
GTA Online Protagonists | Lester Crest | Trevor Philips | Cris Formage
The Doomsday Heist
Avon Hertz | Cliffford | United Liberty Paper Contact
The Diamond Casino & Resort
Thornton Duggan | Avery Duggan
The Diamond Casino Heist
Thornton Duggan
Los Santos Summer Special
The Boss
The Cayo Perico Heist
Juan Strickler
The Contract
Johnny Guns | P | North Side Vagos Leader

Gangs and Cartels
Angels of Death Motorcycle Club | Ballas | Cholos | Colombian Cartel | Da Nang Boys | Diaz's Gang | The Families (Grove Street Families,Seville Boulevard Families) | Hare Krishna | Hustlers | Loonies | Los Santos Vagos | The Lost MC | Madrazo Cartel | Marabunta Grande | O'Neil Brothers | Rednecks | San Fierro Rifa | Southside Hoods | Street Sharks | Varrios Los Aztecas | Trailer Park Mafia | Trevor Philips Enterprises
Armenian Mob | Bulgarin Family | Duggan Crime Family | Faustin-Rascalov Family | Forelli Family | Pegorino Family | Trunchez Brothers | Kkangpae | Leone Family | Russian Mafia | Sicilian Mafia
Liberty City Triads | Los Santos Triads
The Law
Police | C.R.A.S.H. | Los Santos Police Department | Federal Investigation Bureau | International Affairs Agency
Altruist Cult | Epsilon Program
Cliffford Mercenaries | Crack Dealers | Liquor Store Bandits | Loco Syndicate | Merryweather Security | SRS | Survivalists | The Professionals | Zaibatsu Corporation | Zombotech Corporation