The gang was formed in the 1980s to protect the immigrant Samoan community from established African American and Hispanic gangs in the impoverished suburbs of Long Beach, California. It has since spread to other Southern Californian cities, as well as other states with a large Samoan community. The gang adopted the Crips culture and has since aligned themselves with the larger African American gang.
Originally a gang formed by means of protection, Sons of Samoa sets have since emerged in every impoverished neighborhood with a substantial Pacific Islander community. They are involved in violent crime, which is mostly committed by younger members, as well as organized crime, which is mostly the business of older and ambitious hardcore members of the gang. The Sons of Samoa are heavily involved in extortion, contract killing and the production and distribution of methamphetamine. They are also known for the taxing of other meth distributors, as well as ripping them off. In Long Beach more organized gang members are involved in heavy cocaine-trafficking rings as well as in the trafficking of weapons.