CJ GTA Guide

CJ GTA Guide

Latest posts by Jasmine Butler (see all)

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the most popular entries in the GTA series to date. It has it all, a sprawling map based on areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, and an action-packed storyline with one man at the heart of it all, Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson.

Possibly one of the more favored protagonists, CJ takes us on a journey worth spending countless hours in; I know I have already.

However, if you’ve been living under a rock since the game’s release in 2004, you might be unfamiliar with this GTA character. So sit back and take a read through our CJ GTA guide as we go over CJ’s life, close friends, and all the missions you can see him in.

Who is CJ?

CJ is the main/only protagonist of GTA: San Andreas. He is formally introduced as one of the early gang members of the Grove Street Families, but as the game goes on, he starts putting his fingers in multiple different businesses.

cj's mugshot
Image Source: GTA Fandom Wiki

Early life

CJ was born August 11, 1968 in Los Santos, San Andreas. He is one of four children of Beverly Johnson and an unnamed father. Growing up alongside him were brothers Sean ‘Sweet’ Johnson and Brian Johnson, plus sister Kendl Johnson.

CJ spent his early years living in Grove Street home. He befriends Melvin ‘Big Smoke‘ Harris and Lance ‘Ryder’ Wilson. Eventually, his brother Sweet becomes the head of the Grove Street Families, starting CJ’s life of crime.

CJ left for Liberty City in 1987 after the death of his brother Brian. It was never determined how Brian died, but a sly comment made by Sweet implies that CJ didn’t help out his brother in need. While in Liberty City, CJ worked for the Leone Family, helping their criminal underworld. CJ made a prompt return to Los Santos in 1992 after his mother Beverly was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Events of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Los Santos

As CJ is returning to Grove Street, he is arrested by three corrupt members of C.R.A.S.H, Frank Tenpenny, Eddie Pulaski, and Jimmy Hernandez. They aim to pin the murder of LSPD officer Ralph Pendelbury on him, even though he didn’t commit the crime (spoiler alert, C.R.A.S.H did it). C.R.A.S.H dump CJ near an alley in Ballas district, and Tenpenny tell CJ that he’ll be watching him.

After his run-in with C.R.A.S.H, CJ uses a BMX to head back to Grove Street. CJ is reunited with childhood friend Big Smoke, who takes him to his mother’s grave in Vinewood. Upon arrival, he’s greeted by his Kendl and Ryder but bemoaned by Sweet, who asks him when he’s running off again. The group gets ambushed by Ballas and BMX back to Grove Street.

Ryder decides to take CJ on a trip down memory lane around the areas surrounding Grove Street. They visit a local barber, Old Reece, and Ryder attempts to rob a Well Stacked Pizza Co. restaurant but fails miserably when the clerk remembers him, ushering the pair out with a shotgun.

Sweet decides he wants to get CJ back to helping the Grove Street Families, especially as they’re on a demise. Some members are going off to form their gangs, including the Temple Drive Families and Seville Boulevard Families. CJ helps tag up the local turf, abolish some drug dealers in the area and stop Ballas from getting into Grove Street. He also helps both Big Smoke and Ryder with their criminal happenings.

los santos grove street
Grove Street

Next, CJ reunited with old friend OG Loc, who had just been released from prison. Despite serving jail time, OG Loc still wanted CJ’s help with a few criminal ventures, including killing Freddy, a member of the Los Santos Vagos, stealing Madd Dogg’s rhyme book, and subsequently killing his manager. OG Loc, now a big-shot rapper, hosted a house party in Grove Street, which was attacked by Ballas. Luckily CJ, Sweet, and other Grove Street Families members could fend off the attack.

Kendl starts dating Cesar Vialpando, the leader of the gang Varrios Los Aztecs. CJ goes to check him out and keep tabs on him. From there, the pair start to form a strong friendship, despite being part of differing gangs. C.R.A.S.H startS to get CJ involved with their corrupt ventures, including burning a Vago member’s house down and assassinating a Russian arms dealer.

CJ then takes over Glen Park, which is part of the Ballas turf, and kills a former Grove Street Families member, Lil Weasel, who has decided to join the Ballas. With the Ballas on a downfall, Sweet decides he wants to reunite all the three families. CJ, Sweet, Ryder, and Big Smoke head to the meeting with the Families at the Jefferson Hotel.

However, it is ambushed by SWAT and LSPD members, with Ryder and Big Smoke timely leaving beforehand. Cj goes back into the hotel to save Sweet, and the pair escape to the streets of Los Santos.

Ultimately, the three families all decided to come together to get back at the Ballas. They all plan to ambush a group at Mulholland Intersection. On his way over, CJ is called by Cesar, who asks him to meet him in Verdant Bluffs. Cesar has found out that the drive-by shooting that killed Beverly was actually meant to kill Sweet.

At the same moment, the pair see Big Smoke, Ryder, a group of Ballas, and C.R.A.S.H members leave a garage in a green Sabre, the same car used in the drive-by. CJ and Cesar come to the revelation that Big Smoke and Ryder have been selling the Grove Street Families out all along and are working with C.R.A.S.H.

Realizing that the plan to ambush the Ballas at Mulholland Intersection was a set-up for Sweet and CJ, CJ rushes over there to warn him. However, he arrives to find Sweet injured. CJ fends off groups of Ballas, but LSPD soon arrives and arrests the pair.

cj on a grove street


While Sweet ends up in a prison hospital, CJ is driven out to Angel Pine, Whetstone, by C.R.A.S.H. Instead of arresting him, they want him to perform more tasks, but they warn him off getting vengeance on Big Smoke.

After doing some work for C.R.A.S.H, CJ calls Cesar and asks him if he knows of any work in the area. Cesar tells him to look up his cousin Catalina. Catalina is a loud and outgoing woman who engages in criminal activity. The pair do various robberies together before they part ways, much to Catalina’s disappointment, who had taken a liking to CJ.

Through Tenpenny, CJ is introduced to The Truth, a hippy who lives out in the countryside. He needs help with his Marijuana production. CJ aids him by stealing a Combine Harvester from a nearby farm for The Truth to use.

CJ and Cesar reunite after Cj told Cesar that he and Kendl should leave Los Santos. Thinking of work, Cesar tells CJ that he’s found some drug shipments that are heading between Los Santos and Los Fierro. Parking that for the moment, CJ earns some cash by entering various races around Red county. This introduces him to Wu Zi Mu. Catalina challenges CJ to race her new boyfriend, Claude. When CJ wins, she gives him the deed to a garage in San Fierro.

Before CJ heads to San Fierro, he helps The Truth transport the Marijuana he’s been growing. However, they both realize they’ve been set up by Tenpenny and burn all the weed on arrival.

carl johnson in a countryside

San Fierro

CJ decides to get help in making his garage boom in San Fierro. He hires a couple of mechanics and a tech expert. C.R.A.S.H continues to interfere with CJ’s life, giving him more missions.

Cesar spots a couple of Ballas hanging around in Red County. CJ and Cesar tail them to Angel Pine, where they find a meeting happening between Ryder and three members of the Loco Syndicate, Mike Toreno, T-Bone Mendez, and Jizzy B. The pair decided to eliminate them as they’re helping Big Smoke with his drug trade in Los Santos

CJ also begins helping Wu Zi Mu and the Triads with their war against the Da Nang Boys.

CJ offers to help out Jizzy B, a pimp, and once he gains his trust, he kills him. Through Jizzy B’s death, CJ is able to locate T-Bone and his old friend Ryder. Heading to Pier 69, he eliminates the pair and next plans to go after Toreno. He finds Toreno in a helicopter and downs it, killing the final member of the Loco Syndicate.

To end the Loco Syndicate’s reign for good, CJ takes down their drug factory in San Fierro.

cj in san fierro

The Desert

As CJ’s time in San Fierro comes to an end, he gets a call from a mysterious voice, asking him to come to a ranch in Tierra Robada. He heads there and finds out his assassination on Toreno wasn’t successful. Toreno reveals he’s an undercover agent and wants CJ to assist him with some ventures in exchange for Sweet being released from prison.

CJ goes along with it, buying a local airstrip and completing various flying missions.

While out in the desert, The Truth gets in contact, wanting CJ’s help with stealing a jetpack from Area 69. He then uses the jetpack to steal ‘green goo’ for The Truth, but he never gives an explanation for why he needs the peculiar substance.

cj in desert

Las Venturas

CJ heads to the lucrative Las Venturas, where he reunites with Wu Zi Mu at his business, The Four Dragons Casino. Liberty City mafia families are causing him all sorts of trouble, and he wants CJs help. In return, he’ll give CJ a stake in his casino. To get back at these mafias, the duo plans a heist of the Caligula’s Palace Casino, owned by the Sindacco, Forelli, and Leone Families.

While carrying out various tasks in preparation for the heist, The Truth calls and asks for a favor from CJ. He and a band, The Gurning Chimps, went out into the desert, but something happened, leading to The Truth being separated from them. CJ saves the members Maccer and Kent Paul, becoming acquaintances with them.

CJ meets Ken Rosenberg, the manager of Caligula’s, through Kent and decides to befriend him in aid to help his and Wu Zi Mu’s heist. This gets him in with the Leone Family, who hires CJ to take down the Forelli Family. He also takes down Sindacco’s Family underboss Johnny Sindacco by traumatizing him to death.

CJ also helps Maccer, Paul and Ken escape the grasps of the mafia they had got involved with by faking their deaths and finally freeing them.  C.R.A.S.H returns with one last task for CJ, to kill an FBI agent and collect a dossier from him. Once he’s done, he meets Tenpenny and Pulaski in a village in the desert. However, Tenpenny betrays CJ, what a surprise, knocking-out Hernandez for snitching on C.R.A.S.H and leaving CJ to dig a grave for Hernandez.

With Pulaski watching over, CJ digs the grave, but Hernandez wakes up and attacks Pulaski, who then kills him. In shock, Pulaski flees, but CJ chases him down to kill him, leaving just Tenpenny left, but we’ll get to him later.

While in Las Venturas, CJ comes across Madd Dogg, who is planning to commit suicide after the downfall of his career. With Madd Dogg attempting to jump off one of the casinos, CJ saves him and takes Madd Dogg to rehab, with the plan to get clean and sort his life out again.

With the Leone Families’ trust and Sindacco weakened, CJ and Wu Zi Mu finally decide to rob Caligula’s. The heist goes swimmingly, and Wu Zi Mu can finally be free of any torment from the other mafia families.

With everything now calm in Las Venturas, CJ helps Wu Zi Mu with running the casino. Madd Dogg comes to visit him, stating he’s now clean, wants CJ to be his manager, and wants his mansion in Los Santos back. However, there is one problem, the Vagos have taken it over.

With the help of the triads, CJ takes back Madd Dogg’s mansion. Now being back on home turf, CJ aims to get revenge on those that have wronged him.

cj in las venturas

Back in Los Santos

Upon his return, CJ is once again asked for help by Toreno, who says that if CJ does this one last task, Sweet will be released, which he follows through with. CJ goes to pick up his brother and tell’s him all about his ventures. However, Sweet is angry at him for leaving the Grove Street Family behind, leading to Ballas’ rising again. Together, they retake Grove Street and plan to get the gang back together.

To help Madd Dogg, CJ gets his rhyme book back from OG Loc, helping to get his career back on track.

Sweet and CJ start their attempt to hunt down Big Smoke. In doing this, they reclaimed Glen Park as Grove Street turf, which leads them to B Dup, a former Grove Street member. Hoping to find information on Big Smoke’s whereabouts, they’re left further in the dark by B Dup. B Dup tells Big bear, another former Grove Street member, to kill both CJ and Sweet, but instead, he refuses and rejoins Grove Street.

While watching the news one day with Sweet, Cesar, The Truth, Kendl, Maccer, and Madd Dogg, they find out that Tenpenny, and the deceased Pulaski, have been arrested for their crimes. However, all charges are dropped due to a lack of evidence, leading to city-wide riots. CJ helps reclaim back turf for Cesar’s gang from Vagos. Next stop, taking down Big Smoke and Tenpenny.

CJ and Sweet find out Big Smoke is hiding out in a crack den in East Los Santos. The place is heavily guarded so CJ persuades Sweet to let him go alone. He battles his way through the den and confronts Big Smoke. The pair have a shootout, but CJ is the one that deals the killing blow to Big Smoke, finally taking him down.

Tenpenny shows up, who had been watching the whole thing. He’s come to collect his share of Big Smoke’s money and flee the city. Tenpenny shoots at a generator, causing it to explode, before fleeing the scene. CJ safety escapes the building and carries on his hunt for Tenpenny.

Tenpenny drives past in a fire truck, which Sweet has jumped on the back of. CJ follows, eventually getting close enough for Sweet to drop into his car. The pair continue to chase Tenpenny, who eventually crashes the fire truck off a bridge.

CJ, along with Sweet, Cesar, The Truth, and Kendl, approach the dying Tenpenny. Sweet stops CJ from shooting him, saying, “he died in a traffic accident.” All but CJ walks from the scene. CJ kicks about Tenpenny’s body to double-check he is dead before leaving with the final words, “see you around, officer’.

back to los santos

Personality and Appearance

Despite being part of a gang, helping out crime lords, and just downright being a murderer, CJ has quite a calm nature to him.

Yes, he is no-nonsense and doesn’t take any stick from no-one, but he also cares dearly for those around him, especially his siblings. Even though he’s part of a gang, CJ is quite opposed to drugs, which is one of the main reasons he wants to take down Big Smoke.

Well, besides the big betrayal. He happily goes along with everyone’s ideas, even the ones that us playing at home might find crazy. We’re looking at you, The Truth.

CJ’s appearance is largely down to players’ choice. At the beginning of the game, CJ is a tall, slim man and can be seen wearing a white vest and a blue pair of jeans.

As the game goes on, players are able to personalize CJ by changing his clothes, weight, hairstyle, and adding tattoos.

CJ’s main affiliations


Sweet is one of the two brothers CJ has. He’s always a little mean to CJ, but that helps him grow into the man he is at the end of the game.

Through the events of San Andreas, Sweet is arrested in a set-up, leaving CJ to go after Big Smoke and Tenpenny on his own. Toreno later releases him after CJ helped him in his criminal wrongdoings.


Big Smoke

I think I’m right in saying Big Smoke has some of the most iconic video game quotes to date, “All we had to do, was follow the damn train, CJ!” and not forgetting his drive-thru order, “I’ll have two number 9s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45s, one with cheese, and a large soda.”

Despite ending up being one of the game’s main antagonists, Big Smoke is one of CJ’s childhood friends that helps him learn the ropes as he joined the Grove Street Families. It’s just a shame things turned out the way they did.

big smoke


Another old friend-turned-antagonist. Once CJ returns to Grove Street, he takes him under his wing and shows him how Los Santos has changed, but not really.

The foolish friend in the gang, Ryder, often gets himself in all sorts of trouble, including his poor attempt at robbing a Well Stack Pizza Co restaurant. I would never have guessed that Ryder would turn on his family.



Leader of the Varrios Los Aztecs, Cesar becomes a close; you could maybe even say best friend to CJ. They meet when CJ goes to spy on him when he finds out he is dating his sister Kendl.

But, despite being part of a rival gang, their friendship blossomed, and they pair come together on numerous occasions to beat their foes.



The only sister to CJ and Sweet, Kendl is sometimes babied far more than she would like. But, Kendl is a strong, independent queen who can take care of herself. Her brothers eventually approved of her love for Cesar, and they have very happy families.


The Truth

There isn’t much point to The Truth’s character in San Andreas, but he sure is a favored one of mine. He’s always sending CJ on weird missions, including raiding Area 69 (yes, just like Area 51) and getting him to pick up weird substances.

This elderly hippie sporadically pops up in the game and is even celebrating the victory with the gang at the end.

the truth

Wu Zi Mu

Wu Zi Mu becomes a close friend of CJ’s after they compete in a race against each other. However, we find out that Wu Zi Mu is blind!! Which does lead to some comical moments.

The pair aren’t just friends, but business owners, with both having stakes in The Four Dragons Casino in Las Ventura.

wu zi mu

Madd Dogg

It isn’t until late in the game that CJ’s and Madd Dogg’s friendship is established, but the pair end up doing a lot to support one another. After the downfall of his career, Madd Dogg plans to commit suicide by jumping off the top of a casino.

CJ saves him, and in return, they both start to get Madd Dogg’s music career back on track, with CJ as manager. He’s got plenty of businesses, that man!!

madd dogg

What Are the Missions CJ Stars in?

Being the only protagonist, CJ appears in every mission in GTA: San Andreas. All 101 of them (if you included the opening sequence).

CJ’s Top 5 Moments

Being a Boss When First Meeting Cesar

You have to battle him in a low-rider competition when first meeting Cesar. Bouncing about your car seems to get you approved with Kendl’s new boyfriend, and Cj does it with ease; go on man!

Dancing the Night Away to Steal the DJ Setup

During the mission “Life’s a Beach,” OG Loc tasks CJ with stealing a van with a sound system in the back of it from a beach part. CJ heads to the party, and of course, he is roped into having a little dance; the man certainly has moves.

The Crazed Catalina

Ahh, Catalina, Catalina, Catalina. The pair ‘date’ for a short while, but ultimately, it just didn’t work out. Thought the game, Catalina will then ring CJ, mostly berate CJ and rub her new relationship with Claude in his face. However, CJ just isn’t fazed, saying to her, “Catalina! You Sick! Get help!”.

Any Interaction with The Truth

CJ is just as bewildered with The Truth as all of us playing is. Their dialogue with one another is truly hilarious, seeing an old-age hippy and a gang member slowly become good friends.

Fat CJ

With all that fast food on offer, you can slowly but surely make CJ one big boy. While this isn’t common for players to do, those that have been dedicated enough have seen hilarious results.

fat cj

Key Quotes

“Grove Street. Home. At least it used to be until I f***ed everything up”

“Does the Pope sh*t in the woods”

“Ah sh*t, here we go again”


Question: What happens to CJ after San Andreas?

Answer: Not much is known about what happened to CJ after the game’s events. We know he finishes it successfully, now owning numerous businesses and rekindles things with his family. Who knows, maybe we’ll see him pop up in another entry one day.

Question: How many girlfriends can CJ have?

Answer: Throughout the events of San Andreas, CJ is given the option of being able to romance plenty of women. It first starts when he rescues Denise Robinson in Los Santos. He can also meet another prospective girlfriend, Millie Perkins, during a Las Venturas mission. They are the only two he can meet through missions, but there are four other girlfriends he can try to woo throughout the map.

Question: Is it possible to buy property in San Andreas?

Answer: yes, there are numerous different properties and even businesses for CJ to purchase in-game. There are a total of 37 properties that CJ can buy, which will turn into a safehouse afterward. They’re simple to buy; just walk up to the floating green dollar sign, and if you have enough dollars in the bank, it’s yours for the taking.

And That’s the Life of CJ

And there we have it, the full adventures of Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson. He has a whirlwind story, meeting some hilarious characters on the way. While we may not know what CJ is doing now, I hope he got to live a peaceful life.

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