Meet real life Trap Queen, Perrion Roberts.
Her story will be told tonight on the Season 2 premiere of BET+ series “American Gangster: Trap Queens,” but you can get a sneak peek now courtesy of an exclusive interview with BOSSIP Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden who spoke with the southern legend ahead of the episode. For many in Huntsville, AL, where Roberts was born and raised, her tale is one that has been passed down for generations.
“Everyone here knows about the story, but they don’t know the real details that I’m giving in the documentary,” Roberts told BOSSIP exclusively. “How long did I reign? From ’84 to 2004, roughly about 30 years, it made me the longest reigning drug dealer in the country.”
What’s even more incredible about Roberts’ long career on the wrong side of the law is that despite being sentenced to 21 years behind bars, she ultimately served only two years in jail, and was later pardoned for her offenses.
“I had great lawyers,” Roberts recalled to BOSSIP. “And not only did I have great lawyers, I had the Lord on my side that refused to let his child go down for — they had offered me 99 years– but that wasn’t in God’s plan. That wasn’t because of the amount of drugs that they caught on me, that was solely because of my name and because they had such a hard time catching me. They were trying to punish me because they couldn’t do their job. God had other plans for me and he told me that I was only going to do two years and I went into the court room and I told the prosecutor that it didn’t matter how much time they gave me because I was only going to do two years, so sayeth the Lord. I went in on March 4th, 2004 and I made parole March ’06.”
Perrion says she started out dabbling in the drug game when she was only a teenager and the man she was dating began selling marijuana. At the time she still was studying at Alabama A&M, so while they were hustling together he did the bulk of the work. After her boyfriend was jailed that all changed.
“To make a long story short, he got locked up and therefore the drugs were still on the street so I had to be the one to collect the money,” Perrion told BOSSIP. “Some of the people didn’t want to give me the money so I had to make an example out of some of the guys… I didn’t get into the cocaine business until probably about two or three years later, and that happened because a cousin of mine said he was in the projects selling cocaine and I didn’t believe him and I got out there and he really was. He had guys selling for him, we had a pretty good stint going out there with him and I ended up learning about the cocaine… He got killed and he had a crew, and his crew were a crew without a leader and I was a leader with a crew, so we merged the two and the rest was history.”
Like many of the other women featured on “American Gangster: Trap Queens,” Perrion said she escaped the attention of law enforcement for a long time because she defied the stereotypes, due to her young age and her educational background. “I was different from beginning to the end,” she told BOSSIP, with a laugh. Her elusive track record changed to some degree in 1992, when Roberts was arrested and stood trial for capital murder but ultimately she was acquitted. She bounced back even bigger after the trial and went on to expand her enterprise but by the early 2000’s she was looking for a way out of the game.
“Since I had such a long run in selling drugs I got tired of going to the places I was going,” Perrion told BOSSIP. “I got tired of watching my back for the police. I prayed and asked God for a way out and when they busted me, I got out the car, I put my hands behind my back and I looked up at the sky and said, ‘Lord this is not what I meant.’ I wanted a way out, but I didn’t want to go to jail.
After being jailed, Roberts says she found out quickly that God had a higher calling for her. Criminal justice reform.
“I ended up suing the Department of Corrections while I was there,” Roberts told BOSSIP. “I got a lot of stuff changed in the prison system during the two years I was there. I sued their medical department and now they have to take the prisoners out to see a doctor if they’re ill and give them their medicine if they have prescriptions. I made them paint the prison because the paint hadn’t been done in awhile and it had lead in the paint. A couple of the officers had beat a woman to death and I saw it, so I had the Feds to come in. I made them change the way they treated religion because the only thing they had at the time was the Holy Bible. Not that I had anything against the Bible but you may read the Qu’ran or you may be Jewish. I wasn’t certified Native American at the time but we had one there and they had to build her an altar. They really were mad at me, but it was changes that needed to be done. I just found out a month ago that (Alabama governor) Kay Ivey is still working on issues that I brought up to resolve that lawsuit from 2005. We need change in Alabama really really bad.”
In 2014 Roberts went on to receive a full pardon from the state of Alabama. She rescued her nephew from the foster care system after his mother was killed and went on to raise him. She’s also worked extensively with the NAACP and the United Way and continues to do criminal justice reform work. She eventually completed pre-law classes but chose not to pursue a legal career after finding success as the owner of Perri Auto Sales, making her the only woman of color in the United States to be the sole owner of a certified used automotive dealership. In addition to her appearance on “Trap Queens,” Roberts is also set to release an autobiography, Beyond a Dream about her experiences .
“The book is more in detail of how I was thinking, from childhood to becoming a drug dealer, being involved in the drug dealing, prison, beating a murder case and then what’s going on with me now,” Perrion told BOSSIP. “Mostly how I wanted it to flow is to let people know my highs and lows, my triumphs and losses and also I wanted whoever reads it to be inspired and for people to know that even if you get in trouble you can still change your life, no matter what you have done. If you want to do better, be a better person, you still can, all you have to do is persevere. Use your past as a stepping stone to your future.”
Perrion Roberts’ episode of “American Gangster: Trap Queens” is available on BET+ beginning today, January 14.