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An African-American street gang and one of the oldest street gangs in Los Santos, San Andreas.
- Arch-Enemy: The Ballas, all the way.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: They all wear green and you get more respect by wearing their colors.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Unlike other gangs from GTA, they are standards. For example: They absolutely refuse to sell hardcore drugs like crack (pot is fine with them).
- Foil: The Leone Crime Family from the sequel. They are a huge contrast with the Families. Unlike them, the Leones have no problem with things such as drug trafficking, torture or supporting sociopaths like Donald Love.
- Gang Bangers: A street gang whose business are less formal than The Mafia.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The Families were based on the Crips, an African-American street gang from Los Angeles, California.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After GTA: San Andreas, the Families' final fate is completely unknown.
Carl "CJ" Johnson
Voiced by: Chris "Young Maylay" BellardThe protagonist of San Andreas and a former gangbanger representing the Grove Street Families. After his younger brother Brian was killed, Carl moves away to Liberty City to try to escape his past, only to be forced to come home five years later to bury his mother Beverly, who was killed in a drive-by shooting at their own house.Unfortunately, he's picked up by the LSPD's C.R.A.S.H. Unit almost immediately after arriving, and subsequently framed for killing Officer Ralph Pendlebury (an Internal Affairs investigator, murdered mere minutes beforehand by C.R.A.S.H.), and dumped in rival gang territory. And so begins San Andreas...
- Adaptational Heroism: In the official Let's Play, his reluctance and remorse are quite clearer — e.g., he actually spares Alan Crawford's girlfriend in "Management Issues," he's actually unaware of the foreman being in the portable toilet (he just wants to bury the toilet itself for vandalism purposes) during "Deconstruction," and he later even gives Hernandez a Due to the Dead for his Heroic Sacrifice against Pulaski.
- Affably Evil: While he can commit wanton acts of criminal violence throughout the game, on a good day he's actually quite a loving son, brother and friend who is more than willing to cross moral boundaries if it's for their sake.
- Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Depending on how you look at him, he's either an Unscrupulous Hero or a noble villain.
- Bald of Evil: He can be customized to have this. You can even combine it with a Beard of Evil.
- Berserk Button: Being called a "buster" (poseur or fake) and if someone messes with his sister.
- Deadpan Snarker: At times. For example, when killing mooks: "Aw, look, I got a gun."Voicebox: Time to see what you're made of.
CJ: What it look like I'm made of? Pudding?
- Drives Like Crazy: Supporting characters will often comment on his reckless driving habits during cutscenes or missions. This is probably a case of Take That, Audience!, since even careful players are bound to crash into AI cars on a regular basis. Some of his own car crash banter can either be a potshot against the colliding driver or the player.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Receives nothing but insults from his brother Sweet, no matter how much work he puts into pulling his family out of the ghetto.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Happens to him in the mission "The Green Sabre" when Smoke and Ryder betray the Grove.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The reason he returns to Los Santos, and starts the plot.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- The OGs may be crooks, but they look out for their neighborhood. The Ballas flood their own territories with drugs.
- Snitching and tipping the police is beneath him according to the code of the streets. He tells Tenpenny that he doesn't care if it kills him or his brother when Tenpenny asks him to tip the police to incriminate his target. He changes his mind when told that he is incriminating a District Attorney.
- Foil: To Tommy Vercetti, the previous protagonist in the series. While Tommy is a ruthless Unfettered who starts the game as a feared and respected mobster and builds a criminal empire on the cocaine trade, CJ is an Affably Evil Noble Demon who regularly gets dissed by everyone he knows (including friends and family) and is violently opposed to drug trafficking.
- Freudian Excuse: Several tragedies that happened in his life, including the murder of his mother and Brian, motivates him to kill Ballas or any rival gangster. On a lighter side, he sometimes mocks pedestrians by claiming this ("Don't blame me, blame society").
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Starts the game as a dirt-poor returnee from Liberty City thrown into the violence-wracked, crack-plagued streets of Los Santos. Play him right and by the end of the game not only is he a member of one of the most powerful black gangs in San Andreas as well as the manager of Madd Dogg, but he can also own a statewide criminal empire.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The responsible to Sweet's foolish.
- Gangsta Style: For any one-handed weapon other than the Desert Eagle, combined with...
- Guns Akimbo: When he reaches maximum skill with the 9MM pistol, Tec-9/Machine Pistol SMG's, or the Sawn-Off Shotgun.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Justified Criminal: He and Sweet once robbed people at gunpoint to pay for their mother's lifesaving operation and to send Kendl to college. He also does many dangerous, morally questionable activities to rescue his native Ganton from internal and external destruction.
- Karma Houdini: In the Grand Theft Auto tradition, the player character never faces consequences for the heinous crimes he, be it part of the story or during the player's free time, commits.
- Kick the Dog: Besides being the most "heroic" protagonist in the franchise (as far a Grand Theft Auto protagonist can be), the moment when he buried a foreman alive is overly cruel.
- Knight Templar Big Brother: Very protective of his sister Kendl. When he hears that some nearby construction workers have been harassing her, he wastes no time heading to the construction site, killing several of the workers (should you choose to, anyway), and ultimately burying the foreman alive in a port-a-potty.
- It's Up to You: While this game actually does offer significant NPC aid at times, there's still a fair portion where CJ is left to do most of the work. When he isn't being forced to by those above him, the justification usually boils down to the incompetence or inability of his comrades.
- Lack of Empathy: An interpretation, depending on your viewpoint. While he is less ruthless than Tommy Vercetti, CJ rarely complains about what he does from a moral standpoint, even for his acts of criminal violence.
- The Lancer: Starts out as one to Sweet.
- My Greatest Failure: Carl is seemingly never going to live down Brian's death, though we don't know for sure that he caused that. (His family blames him for it, that's all that matters.)
- The Nicknamer: Wu Zi Mu invites Carl to call him "Woozie." Carl, perhaps inspired by this, later shortens Ran Fa Li to "Mister Farley", though Carl does pronounce it properly on occasion.
- Noble Demon: Especially when compared with the rest of the past player characters like Claude and Tommy (though the latter does have some moments, too). He cares for his family and the gang while opposing drugs.
- One Degree of Separation: With three protagonists.
- CJ works with Ken Rosenberg, who was an accomplice of Tommy Vercetti from Vice City.
- CJ also used to work for Joey Leone, who would eventually work with both Toni Cipriani from Liberty City Stories and Claude from Grand Theft Auto III
- Only Known by Initials: He is called CJ most of the time.
- Only Sane Man: Shares this role his sister Kendl.
- Outlaw Couple: Subverted with Catalina. While the two work together during his exile to the countryside, she develops an unhinged obsession with him and considers CJ her "boyfriend", even though he is not interested and clearly repulsed by her... personality flaws. Even after they "break up" and she moves on with Claude, Catalina repeatedly calls him up at several points usually to boast or insult him, showing that she is still obsessed with him.
- Pragmatic Hero: Double Subversion. After finally making a fortune outside Los Santos, he tries to get a pardoned Sweet to just quit the Grove Street life and live with him in luxury. Sweet, however, gives him a What the Hell, Hero? for sounding Not So Different from Smoke, and CJ then decides he should use his new resources to actually help the hood instead of just abandoning it.
- Self-Made Man: With only his own wits and a couple of guns, Carl made his way from a lowly gangbanger to a respectable estate owner and a high-ranking criminal.
- Sibling Team: With both Sweet and Kendl.
- Tattooed Crook: If you like.
- Trash Talker: Takes up Tommy Vercetti's wisecracks to another level. He especially goes bananas when hit by another driver.
- Universal Driver's License: CJ may have to take a Forced Tutorial before he can enter airports and jack planes (unless he elaborately hops the fence), but he still manages to figure out the jetpack pretty quickly. On the other hand, the player has to grind skill with most forms of transportation before they can use them with anything resembling competence.
- Villain Protagonist: Though considerably less of a villain than past player characters like Claude and Tommy.
- Virtual Paper Doll: The first highly customizable character in the series, as you can give him different hairstyles and tattoos, make him buff, skinny or fat, and buy him a wide variety of clothes. Wearing anything green will boost his respect amongst his fellow Grove homies.
Sean "Sweet" Johnson
Voiced by: Faizon LoveCarl and Kendl's older brother and leader of the Grove Street Families. He, his siblings, and their friends were once very close, but when his younger brother Brian died, Sweet blamed Carl, and the family broke apart. Whereas Carl fled to Liberty City to escape his guilt, however, Sweet dedicated himself to the GSF, becoming the gang's leader and keeping it from falling apart.When Carl returns to the city, Sweet is extremely skeptical of his brother, believing that he'll simply run out on his homies once again. After seeing firsthand Carl's determination to atone, however, he lightens up and reconciles with his brother. Unfortunately, he is soon after led into a Police/Balla ambush and nearly killed, spending much of the game's second act in a prison hospital pending trial, only being released once CJ has left behind the gang for a life of luxury.
- Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: The same as CJ.
- Despair Event Horizon: When he gets back to Los Santos near the end of the game and sees how his old hood has degenerated due to Tenpenny's letting Smoke run his drugs trade, he almost tokes on the crack pipe B-Dup's whore offers him, wanting to know what's so special about the thing that's destroyed his life, his worldview, and his friends. CJ saves him from what would doubtless be a tragic Face–Heel Turn or even Driven to Suicide.
- Distressed Dude: His situation is pretty grave as the neighborhood is under assault by rival gangs and an influx of crack cocaine. He later gets sent to prison where Tenpenny says he'll be raped and killed unless Carl does what he says.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Foolish to CJ and Kendl's responsible.
- Honor Before Reason: His reaction to discovering CJ is either a millionaire or very close to it is disgust at 'losing his roots.'
- Jerkass Has a Point: He's a gangster, but if someone doesn't keep drugs out of the neighborhood, who will?
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although he gives CJ a lot of shit over the course of the game, it's clear he loves the hell out of his brother. And there are a couple of scenes where he apologizes to CJ for being an ass to him. Also, he allows CJ to pay his debt to Cesar by assisting him and his Varrios Los Aztecas gang in attacking Los Vagos.
- Knight Templar Big Brother
- The Leader: of Grove Street Families.
- Moral Myopia: Believes 'representing the Hood' is more important than actually building a better life for him and his family.
- Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters: Thinks of the Grove Street Families as this. He may or may not be wrong.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: He is one of the good guys, but he does use some offensive slang for Mexicans, especially Kendl's boyfriend Cesar.
- Principles Zealot: Is too blinded by "standing by his principles" to actually see the big picture outside of the hood.
- Sibling Team: Mostly with CJ, sometimes with Kendl, too.
- The Unfettered: Pursues the dominance of the Grove Street Families over the gangs of Los Santos with an almost deranged single-mindedness.
- Ungrateful Bastard: How he reacts when CJ gets him out of prison and explains they're never going to have to work again.
Melvin "Big Smoke" Harris
Voiced by: Clifton PowellA leading member of the Families and childhood friend of the Johnsons. Smoke has been a loyal member of the GSF for years, and feels a great deal of anger over the drive-by shooting that killed Mrs. Johnson. He encounters Carl shortly after the latter arrives back in Grove Street, and helps him readjust to life on the West Coast.Unfortunately, by the time Carl returned, he had already aligned himself with C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas to profit off of the bustling crack cocaine industry, and organized the drive-by that killed Mrs. Johnson, having hoped to kill Sweet and Kendl. He runs the business from behind the scenes, and deals mostly with potential clients like Tenpenny and the Ballas.
- Affably Evil: Before his betrayal, he was a lovable fella with a great sense of humor.
- Even when CJ finally confronts him, he has a casual demeanor, even referring to him as his "old dog".
- Alas, Poor Villain: CJ feels nothing but remorse after offing him, as everything Smoke did was for nothing.
- Ambition Is Evil: The main root of his Face–Heel Turn? He got addicted to both the money and power he earned.
- Bald of Evil: You can see it under his hat. This especially noticeable when studying the statue of him in his Crack Palace.
- Badass Beard
- Beard of Evil
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Tenpenny, although unknown to him, he is the lesser of the two.
- Big Eater: How much? He eats everyone's food during a car chase shootout! Someone did the math on Big Smoke's incredibly well-known massive order, and it's approximately seven-thousand five-hundred calories.
- Big Fun: After CJ returns home, Smoke is definitely the GSF member who's the nicest and most enjoyable to be around, what with Sweet being an Ungrateful Bastard and Ryder being a Jerkass. Then this is turned on its head when you find out that Smoke is in cahoots with Tenpenny and the Ballas.
- Cigar Chomper: Seems to always have a large cigar on hand.
- Dirty Coward: In the mission "Reuniting the Familes", both Smoke and Ryder drive off when the cops show up, leaving CJ and Sweet to fend for themselves. They do pull a Big Damn Heroes later in the mission, but this is still a major clue that they're not quite as loyal as you think. By the end of the game, Smoke is holed up in his crack house, his location a carefully guarded secret, and wears body armor at all times. Ironically, he faces you head-on and is the toughest enemy in the game.
- Face–Heel Turn: Before the game even started - he was a loyal member of the GSF, but betrayed them for money and fame.
- Fat and Skinny: The Fat to Ryder's Skinny.
- He's also The Fat to CJ's Skinny, unless the player chooses to work out/get fat.
- Fat Bastard: Post-Reveal.
- Fat Comic Relief: He's one of the funniest characters in the game, and his Big Eater status is the subject of quite a few laughs. In one mission, where the gang goes to get takeout at Cluckin' Bell, his order is larger than everyone else's combined, and he still steals their food.
- Final Boss: Since Tenpenny is a "Get Back Here!" Boss, Smoke is the last enemy you fight directly.
- Flunky Boss: He has several Vagos mooks to back him up during his boss fight.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Smoke is never seen without his glasses.
- Foreshadowing: He moves out of Grove Street to buy a house in Idlewood (Ballas turf, no less) with some money he claims came from his aunt. It's most likely drug money, and the move showcases his lack of loyalty.
- There's also the car chase shootout. Granted it's played for comedy, but he doesn't lift a finger to help the others as they're fighting a rival gang.
- It's very possible that Smoke ordered so much food to lengthen the window of time that the Grove Family was out of the hood, as the Ballas car was going to attack the hood.
- The license plate on his car reads "A2TMFK", which can be interpreted as "a two-timing mother fucker."
- There's also the car chase shootout. Granted it's played for comedy, but he doesn't lift a finger to help the others as they're fighting a rival gang.
- Heel Realization: Moments before his death, he acknowledges that he got addicted the money and power he was earning.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: Despite practically owning Los Santos after betraying the GSF, Smoke died paranoid, shut-in and addicted to his own product.
- Plotline Death: At the hands of Carl at the first half of the final mission, End of the Line.
- Nice Hat: His trademark bowler hat.
- Significant Monogram: Bullshit.
- The So-Called Coward: Despite becoming The Paranoiac by the final Mission, he's the only boss to stay and fight to the end (and even die with some (tragic) dignity). By contrast, Ryder, Pulaski, and Tenpenny are just "Get Back Here!" Bosses.
- Unwitting Pawn: He thinks he's in charge of Los Santos, but like everyone else, he's really just a pawn of Tenpenny.
- Villainous Glutton: What he becomes after The Reveal.
- Villain with Good Publicity: He at least tries to paint himself as this. During CJ's exile, the news mentions that he has opened an orphanage in Los Santos, and later appears in a bumper for WCTR claiming that he is a "well-known philanthropist".
- Walking Spoiler: Smoke spends much more time in-game as an antagonist than he does Sweet's ally. Not to mention, his character page here has a lot more whited-out stuff than normal.
Lance "Ryder" Wilson
Voiced by: Aaron "MC Eiht" TylerAnother senior member of the Families, and yet another childhood friend to the Johnsons. He constantly challenges CJ's reliability, feeling that five years on the East Coast has made him too soft for the gangster life. To prove himself, Carl tries to help him secure weapons for the gang through several increasingly-ludicrous robberies. Unfortunately, like Big Smoke, he has aligned with C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas in order to profit from the crack industry, and helped organized the drive-by that killed Mrs. Johnson, having hoped to kill Sweet and Kendl. He handles the deals directly, mostly those with the Loco Syndicate.
- Actor Allusion: "Gyeah" was also the catchphrase of his voice actor.
- Asshole Victim: The fact that he stabs you in the back and shows no regret for doing so makes killing him so satisfying.
- Catch-Phrase: "Gyeah" and "Busta".
- Celebrity Paradox: Compton's Most Wanted, of which MC Eiht was the frontman of, has "Hood Took Me Under", which can be heard on Radio Los Santos.
- Cool Shades: He's never seen without his blackout sunglasses on.
- Deadpan Snarker: The snarkiest of all characters of the whole game, he makes many caustic remarks and is extremely brusque towards CJ at times.
- Demoted to Extra: After his betrayal, he became more of a minor character who quickly becomes forgotten after his demise.
- Dirty Coward: If you fail the mission "Home Invasion" by waking up Col. Fuhrberger, the cinematic shows CJ escaping the house... only to find that Ryder (who was waiting outside in their getaway van) drove off without him. He and Big Smoke pull this later in the mission "Reuniting the Families" when the cops show up. This hints to their eventual betrayal.
- The Dragon: To Big Smoke.
- Establishing Character Moment: His first lines in the game are him taunting CJ during an impromptu getaway - right after Mrs. Johnson's Funeral. Also, his attempt at robbing the Well-Stacked Pizza parlor in Ganton in the following mission shows that he's not quite as smart or competent as he claims to be.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: He is never seen without his shades.
- Face–Heel Turn: While Ryder was a jerk in the start of the game, he was still tight with CJ and at least showed passionate loyalty to the gang, that is until he betrayed the gang later on in the story.
- Fat and Skinny: The Skinny to Smoke's Fat.
- Flipping the Bird: Although we don't actually see it due to none of the character models having separated fingers, his pose as he's preparing to jump off of Pier 69 and escape from CJ certainly suggests that this was the intention.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: He just never knows when to calm down.
- Hate Sink: At least following his betrayal. Not only is he a complete asshole to CJ, he becomes increasingly petty and envious even though he's already aligned with the Ballas. The fact that Cesar's dialogue (in the mission "Yay-Ka-Boom-Boom") implies that Ryder wanted to rape Kendl only makes him even worse (although nothing indicates that there is such evidence of this).
- Hidden Eyes: His eyes are never seen behind his sunglasses.
- Hypocritical Humor: In the beginning of the game, Ryder tells CJ that he needs a haircut.
- Informed Deformity: Ryder is apparently short, as other characters mock his height. In-game, he's taller than CJ. The frequent cracks at his height are probably an allusion to Eazy-E, who was 5'5" in real life.
- Jerkass: He is one of the more troublesome members of the Grove Street Families, often high, always sarcastic and excessively rude to everyone, especially CJ. And you eventually find out he turned on Grove Street before the game even began.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Sure Ryder is an asshole, but when you think about it, most of the things he calls CJ out for being (a busta for leaving to LC, a bad driver, always complaining) are true.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: He claims to be a "genius", but he's probably the stupidest person in the whole game. The fact that he's almost constantly stoned off his ass probably doesn't help.
- Large Ham: As stated in the manual, he is loud, wild, and unpredictable.
- Laughably Evil: In spite of his betrayal, he did provide a lot of humor in many of the missions he appeared in.
- Lean and Mean: Although "mean" is a bit of an understatement.
- Leitmotif: He has his own theme music here.
- Light Is Not Good: He's light-skinned as opposed to the other members of the gang and is also the rudest member as well. And he eventually betrays the Grove Street Families.
- Narcissist: He describes himself as "too smart for school", calls himself unstoppable and even flat out states that he is a "genius".
- Never Bareheaded: With the exception of his attempt to rob the Well-Stacked Pizza, he always wears a black baseball cap on his head and never seen without it.
- Nice Hat: His trademark baseball cap with "San Andreas" embroidered in white on the front.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Appearance wise, he's a dead ringer◊ for the late classic gangsta rapper Eazy-E.
- No Indoor Voice: We don't need to go there.
- Ryder yells "Come out you old bastard" at a crazed war veteran when they go to steal his guns.
- Sinister Shades
- Small Name, Big Ego: He clearly thinks he's a lot more intelligent and competent than he really is.
- The Stoner: Is pretty much constantly under the influence of pot, which leads to him acting unpredictably and making rather stupid decisions. He considers himself an Erudite Stoner, but he's much dumber than he thinks.
- Sunglasses at Night: He always wears his sunglasses, even indoors or at night.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With CJ, up until he betrays him.
- With Catlike Tread: In the mission "Home Invasion", after arriving with CJ at their target's house, CJ suggests a stealthy approach. Ryder agrees... only to immediately start yelling for their target to come out.
Voiced by: Yolanda "Yo-Yo" WhitakerCarl and Sweet's younger sister, who the two care deeply for, and would do anything to protect. She holds a great deal of disdain for their lifestyle, viewing their gangbanging antics as hypocritical and immoral. Nonetheless, she cares a lot about them, and is always there for them when they need support.She is in a relationship with Cesar Vialpando, the leader of the Varrios Los Aztecas, and while this initially causes some strife, it ultimately forges a partnership between the two gangs.
- Bare Your Midriff
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Her relationship with Cesar causes some strife between him and the Johnsons, but they eventually sort things out.
- The Chick
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Along with CJ, the Responsible to Sweet's Foolish.
- Official Couple: With Cesar after they're engaged.
- Only Sane Woman: She's a lot more morally upright than her siblings, though has no scruples in helping steal cars.
- Sassy Black Woman
- The Smart Girl: Once Carl moved to San Fierro, she manages his and Cesar's chop shop.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Subverted with Cesar. Thankfully, Carl is considerably more tolerant than Sweet. Sweet also implies he doesn't mind anymore as he allows CJ to help Cesar in one mission.
- Stripperific: To the point that Sweet tells her she looks like a hooker. It also results in a lot of construction workers getting killed.
Barry "Big Bear" Thorne
Voiced by: Kurt AlexanderA former Grove Street OG who got hooked on crack cocaine and became a drug slave to former Grove Street member B-Dup. In the end of the game he stands up to B Dup and goes to rehab for his drug addiction.
- Formerly Fat: Big Bear is implied to have gotten this name for his large size, and he has a fatter character model in game files, implying that he lost a lot of weight due to his crack addiction.
- Made a Slave: To B Dup.
- Slave Liberation: In the end of the game.
- Weak-Willed: He became this due to his drug addiction.