Ryder was one of the more popular characters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas until he decided to take a big knife and stabbed almost everyone who loved him in the back, which I am still heartbroken about to this date. He went from a dopey stoner that helped out the Grove Street Families to a traitor that was secretly working with Frank Tenpenny and all those at the corrupt C.R.A.S.H. unit of the LSPD.
His downfall meant that he was short-lived in the GTA: SA world but what an impact did he make not only on CJs life, but to this date, fans all over the globe are still talking about this iconic character, including me.
So what made Ryder change his allegiance and become one of the ultimate betrayers in GTA history? Let’s take a look.
Stoner From a Young Age
Ryder, born Lance Wilson, is a member of the Grove Street Families and one of the best pals of protagonist Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson. While it’s not known where he was born and how old he is, it is believed he was also born in Ganton, maybe Grove Street, like most of his peers.
Since the baby age of just 10 years old, Ryder has been in the world of drug dealing, much to CJ’s dismay who has never been a fan of drugs. Ryder definitely was a fan though. I don’t think you ever see him out of a state of highness?
Throughout his young years, he joined the Grove Street Families, grouping him up with Sweet Johnson, Melvin ‘Big Smoke’ Harris, and Brian Johnson.
After the tragic death of Brian Johnson and CJ fleeing, the Grove Street Families started to go off into disarray. Big Smoke and Ryder try and persuade Sweet to start selling drugs to help boost their street cred but he was having none of it.
Despite being in a big group of friends, Ryder lives all on his own in a house on Grove Street. It’s a big old house for one man. His drug dealing business must be booming!
The Start of the Busta
Now 1992, CJ returned home after the shocking death of his mother, who was killed in a drive-by shooting. He and Sweet head to the Vinewood Cemetery to mourn the death. Once they arrive, Ryder and Big Smoke are also in attendance, and finally, a big old reunion for the Grove Street pals.
And what would a reunion be without the Ballas showing up and ruining it? Their purple-clothed enemies show up and attempt a drive-by shooting, leaving the four of them to flee and ride around Los Santos on BMXs to evade the Ballas.
Ryder and CJ decided to have some good old-fashioned one-on-one time. They take a little drive and head to Old Reece’s barber shop for CJ to have a fresh new trim, not that he needed one, Ryder just had to find something to bug CJ about. However, Ryder decided to mess up their fun little day by poorly attempting to rob a Well Stacked Pizza Co. branch. He can’t just have a normal day out that Ryder.
The pair are chased out of the Pizza place by one of the shop clerks and head back to Ryder’s house. The day, ruined. However, the pair double act again soon and help deal with some crack cocaine dealers in the local area that have been supplying to Grove Street.
A few days later, the group all decide to go grab some food. Here we get to hear Big Smoke’s infamous Cluckin’ Bell order. CJ, at this point, still didn’t know how his mother died so Ryder explains the whole story. On their journey for food, they see the same car that tried to shoot them down at the cemetery. Let’s go deal with some Ballas!!
Ryder is next seen explaining the gun situation of Grove Street to CJ, explaining that their supplies are low due to a Police raid. Ryder also helps the gang with a series of a drive-by shootings on a bunch of Ballas.
Is Ryder Starting to Get Paranoid?
CJ goes to see Ryder who is weirdly digging holes all around his back garden. He says he’s lost his ‘water’, a drug concoction that Ryder has been brewing. Funny old boy. Ryder then flips the conversation and asks CJ to join him in stealing some gun crates from a Vietnam War vet, which will give the Street all the guns they need.
After the successful robbery, Ryder and CJ get into a small argument with Ryder asking CJ to stop being a ‘busta’. Maybe Ryder should stop being a busta himself from time to time. I really don’t get what his problem with CJ is?
In another meeting between CJ and Ryder, CJ finds Ryder making his ‘water’ this time. That boy just can’t let the drugs go, can he? Tenpenny crashes the party and upon seeing Ryder making the drug, he asks for some himself. Tenpenny also tells the pair about a train that has ‘something’ on board for them.
Ryder and CJ head out to get the ‘something’, which ends up being weapons. However, this, of course, doesn’t end up being a straightforward task and the duo has to fight a bunch of Ballas and Vagos to get the goods. At the end of the task, Ryder randomly shouts ‘For life, CJ, For Life’. Just you wait to hear what he does later, makes this saying very ironic coming out of Ryder’s mouth.
All these pair seem to do together is steal weapons apparently because next, they decide to steal guns from a National Guard Depot.
A house party is planned on Grove Street by OG Loc. Ryder attends but hates the music and asks CJ to join him outside. The pair have a good old bantering session with Sweet before a Grove Street Families member comes and tells them that the Ballas are coming. Here comes yet another Ballas/Grove Street shoot-out.
Sweet wants to reunite all the Grove Street Families and put up a good fight against the Ballas. He, alongside CJ, Ryder, and Big Smoke head to the Jefferson Motel where one representative from the other two families, Seville Boulevard and Temple Drive are waiting.
Sweet gets out to talk to the other two but the police show up. CJ gets out to fight the police but Big Smoke and Ryder try to persuade him to get back in the car and escape with them. CJ decides to fight and Big Smoke and Ryder flee. What cowards.
After a giant shoot-out, Smoke and Ryder materialize to try and be Sweet and CJ’s knights in shining armor and save them with a getaway car.
Noooo, Ryder Betrays Grove Street
I hate that the next part happened but Rockstar had to do what they wanted to do. Ryder is constantly talking about CJ being a busta when in fact, he turns out to be one himself. The three Grove Street Families have finally reunited, hooray! Sweet wants to take it to the Ballas and asks the Families to meet him under the Mullholland Intersection.
If you want an ending where everyone is happy in GTA: SA then just turn the game off now. That way, there is now a surprise betrayal and Ryder is still loyal. Unfortunately, this is the real world and what happens next is one of the most shocking revelations in GTA history!
As CJ is leaving Sweet’s house, he gets a call from Cesar Vialpando telling him he has something important to show him. CJ tries to rebuff him but eventually goes to see Cesar.
He meets Cesar at Verdant Bluffs. Cesar shows him a couple of Ballas sneaking out of a garage, followed by Ryder, Big Smoke, Tenpenny and Eddie Pulaski. They both see a Green Sabre, the one used in the drive-by shooting that killed CJ’s mom. Who would have thought that the man or should I say men that CJ treated like a brother were actually selling him out!!
If you looked closely, there were a few clues from Ryder’s end that he was sadly corrupt.
- During ‘Sweet and Kendl’, the Ballas wouldn’t shoot at Big Smoke and Ryder.
- Ryder explains that the Police once raided Grove Street for weapons. That could have been Ryder’s doing to leave Grove Street defenseless.
- During OG Loc’s house party, Ryder asks CJ to go outside. That’s when the Ballas attack Grove Street.
It soon dawns on him that he and Sweet are walking into a trap and rushes to Mulholland Intersection to save Sweet. By the time CJ arrives on the scene, the Ballas are already swarming the place. Sweet gets injured in the crossfire but before CJ could get him out to somewhere safe, the Police show up, and CJ surrenders.
Both got arrested with Sweet taken to a prison hospital. CJ, however, is kidnapped and taken to Angel Pine to carry on being C.R.A.S.H’s little puppet. Tenpenny and Pulaski explain that Big Smoke turned on the Families a while ago and does whatever the C.R.A.S.H want. However, there’s no mention of Ryder’s involvement, implying that Big Smoke was the one to turn him rogue.
CJ is warned to stay away from Los Santos or Sweet will be toast. But how will CJ get revenge on Ryder?!
With CJ and Sweet out of the way, Ryder and Sweet start corrupting the rest of the Grove Street Families, you know, the ones that Sweet just worked ever so hard on to reunite. Nothing comes easy in San Andreas!
Cesar manages to get hold of some information that will help CJ in bringing down Ryder. Cesar has heard of a Ballas car heading to San Fierro looking for drugs. CJ goes to meet Cesar out in the countryside and they head to Angel Pine.
The pair get on the roof of a building overlooking a warehouse near the Cluckin’ Bell. They take pictures of the men meeting up which includes T-Bone Mendez, Mike Toreno, Jizzy B and sadly, Ryder. He’s still corrupt. Part of me hoped he’d go straight again.
CJ eventually finds out that Ryder is meeting up with the Loco Syndicate at Pier 69, San Fierro. Now is the time to see Ryder fall. CJ takes out a bunch of San Fierro Rifa members on the roof. T-Bone and Ryder arrive at Pier 69 but Toreno flees in his helicopter after seeing the bodies on the roof. Cesar’s and CJ’s quiet route in is now spoilt.
CJ chases down T-Bone and kills him. His next target in sight is Ryder. Ryder flees the scene on a boat, leaving him and CJ in a water chase. CJ eventually catches up to Ryder and kills him. Was the betrayal really worth it?
His death ‘sequence’ was a big disappointment to me. He hardly mutters two lines to CJ. Where was he begging for his life or like a true villain, explaining his ulterior motives just before he takes his last breath? Lesser-used characters got a better death. Instead, he just sets shot out at sea, and that’s it, the mission and Ryder’s life over.
A short film titled ‘The Introduction” was released by Rockstar and introduces all the characters of GTA: San Andreas.
In it, Ryder and Big Smoke can be seen talking about being in control of their own destiny and they’ll have to do what they’ve got to do if a gun is at their head. While it doesn’t explicitly mention their betrayal, after playing the game, you’ll understand that’s what they mean.
That does sadly mean that Ryder was in it all along. I kinda hoped he was blackmailed later in the game to change allegiance but nope, he was always a busta.
If you’re like me, do you ever wonder why it was Ryder? Sure, there were a few signs that pointed to him being rogue but I never thought it would be a full-on betrayal. There were rumors that Ryder’s voice actor, MC Eiht, cut ties with Rockstar early, leaving them no choice but to cut down Ryder’s role but there’s never been any confirmation of this.
Ryder spoke about loyalty to the Grove quite often and it seemed a bit suspicious that he would betray them. unless he was playing up his loyalty to hide his true intentions.
Another reason could have been, what would have happened to Ryder after Big Smoke’s betrayal. Would he have been arrested too, killed? Or even left in Grove Street to twirl his fingers. I guess Grove Street wouldn’t have fallen if one loyalist was left around.
Personality and Appearance
Ryder can mostly be described as the dopey guy of the gang. He’s constantly got a cigarette in his hand and spends 99.9% of his time high. Due to this, he is occasionally paranoid, especially when he can’t find his ‘water’ that he had buried in his back garden.
Ryder is mostly seen wearing a white top covered by a green jacket that’s zipped up to the top. He was still repping the Grove Street green while being one of the traitors, how very sneaky. He wears a black cap and is always seen with sunglasses. Now I come to think of it, have we ever seen Ryder’s eyes?!
Ryder is good pals with Cj and always roping him in on his adventures. However, the love between the pair isn’t shown often with Ryder spending most of his time berating CJ for leaving. Ryder’s sweetest moment with CJ is when he shouts ‘For life, CJ, for life’ after a mission together.
While they are friends, there isn’t too much interaction between the pair throughout the game. They seem to mostly tolerate each other because they’re part of the same gang and CJ is Ryder’s pal.
Ahh, Ryder’s partner in crime, literally. Big Smoke is one of Ryder’s closest friends, mostly due to the pair being the ultimate betrayers. They’re often hanging around together, probably talking about all their dirty doings.
With Ryder’s betrayal coming at the end of the first Los Santos arc, he doesn’t make a huge amount of appearances despite being a main character. Some he’s just in the start cutscene where others, he’s the one causing chaos with CJ and the gang.
His appearances are:
- Sweet & Kendl
- Cleaning the Hood
- Mines and AKs
- Home Invasion
- Robbing Uncle Sam
- House Party
- Reuniting the Families
- The Green Sabre
- Photo Opportunity
- Pier 69
My Favorite Ryder Moments
It’s no secret that GTA: San Andreas is my favorite GTA entry and that is mostly down to the fantastic characters they make.
Ryder is up there as one of the best GTA has created and I’ll be eternally sad that we didn’t get to see more of him. Here are just a few of my favorite moments from him.
He Hates CJs Driving
Across a few missions, CJ is given the wheel to drive but Ryder isn’t having any of it. He acts like a backseat driver, constantly slating the way he drives, even if CJ has done nothing wrong. If this is so, why don’t you drive Ryder instead of leaving it to CJ all the time? Well, besides the obvious drinking while under the influence because that man is always higher than a building.
Why couldn’t have we seen Ryder drive just once and let CJ berate him for a change?
Tell Me Why I Didn’t Finish High School
At the beginning of ‘Robbing Uncle Sam’, Ryder is as high as a kite and randomly asks Cj why he didn’t finish high school. Cj explains that Ryder has been a drug dealer since 10 and for beating a teacher that was wearing Ballas colors. He really was Grove Street through and through at one point.
Ryder doesn’t agree with any of Cj’s answers and says it’s because he is too intelligent. Yes Ryder, of course you are…
Ryder GTA Guide: FAQs
Question: Does Ryder make an appearance in any other GTA entries?
Answer: Ryder only seems to appear in GTA: San Andreas. However, some eagle-eyed fans believe they have seen Ryder as an NPC in GTA V. On the way to Grove Street during the mission ‘Hood Safari’, three Grove Street members can be seen biking away, wearing similar attire to that of Smoke, Carl and Ryder. We all know it wouldn’t be him though because, well, he’s dead.
Question: Did Big Smoke persuade Ryder to turn his back on Grove Street?
Answer: It does seem that Big Smoke was the ringleader and Ryder was his assistant. One thing I noticed is that Big Smoke’s missions didn’t help out Grove Street at all while Ryder’s did. Make it seem more so that Ryder was Big Smoke’s puppet.
Question: Is Ryder modeled on a real-life person?
Answer: While the motion capture wasn’t done by anyone in particular like those in GTA V, it is believed that Ryder is based on rapper Eazy-E who founded N.W.A. Sadly, Eazy-E passed away in 1995.