Pimp - Iceberg Slim (1969)

Pimp is a book you'd love to hate. It's hard, raw, cruel, but true (well, kind of, a bit fictionalized too). It tells the true life of Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim, the number one pimp in Chicago from the fall 30s to the 60s. The book starts with the beginning, his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinois, his violent stepfather, his tough mother and one incident that changed his life. When he was three, he was raped by his babysitter. A taste of injustice and disgust stuck in his mouth. He grew up wanting to be someone. But when you're black and poor in the 30s, what can you dream about? White people had the best jobs, best houses, best cars, best everything, and blacks could shine their shoes. But white people also loved one particular thing : screwing big fat black asses. So you have to make choices in life, as the first black man's hustle, he chose to be a pimp, the damn best pimp of the world. Remember the line from this Mobb Deep's song, « Shook Ones » 'I'm only nineteen but my mind is old, and when the things get for real my warm heart turns cold''? That's exactly what happened to Robert. After having been sent to jail two times, he understood that he had to be the coldest motherfucker alive to survive in those streets. He moved to the big city, Chicago, with a whore and started his business as a mack. He soon learned from the best, a badass black gorilla pimp known as Sweet Jones. Sweet told him everything he had to know to rule the city and fool the bitches, and Robert learned fast. He talked raw, women were nothing to him and he showed us love through punchlines like “Listen square-ass bitch, I have never had a whore I couldn’t do without. I celebrate, bitch, when a whore leaves me. It gives some worthy bitch a chance to take her place and be a star. You scurvy bitch, if I shit in your face you gotta love it and open your mouth wide.” You get it. It's not for the easily offended. After a shooting in a bar where Robert didn't move a finger (under the influence of too much cocaine), he earned a new nickname, Iceberg Slim was just born. Cold as ice and vicious as a deadly snake, Slim made his bitches work on the streets, sucking off customers days and nights, while he spent most of his time lost in his loneliness, snorting cocaine or shooting heroin."Any sucker who believes a whore loves him shouldn't have fell outta his mammy's ass" He had everything, big cars, pretty whores, shitloads of money, expensive clothes, but his addiction to drugs are getting worse. A falldown until he got arrested for the umpteenth time, backstabbed by his friends, ex-bitches and other macks. Pimpin' ain't easy. That's only after a final 10 months prison stretch in solitary confinement, where he nearly went insane, that he decided to quit pimping and starting writing. Pimp is a cult book, and for so many reasons. Even if it was sometimes hard to read, all the women degradations, ultra violence, crude words, it was a fascinating read. Lots of funny, tragic or unbelievable anecdotes about street life, jail, and obviously pimp secrets. Between 1967 and 1979, Beck wrote seven books that captured the brutally tough world of the ghetto, including Trick Baby and Black Mama Widow. Pimp was his first one, his autobiography, his life, his moments of glory, or weakness... Its impact on Black culture was considerable, published on the rise of the Black Power movement, the book was selling faster than weed bags in Tompkins Square on a sunny day. Regarding Hip Hop culture, I bet this is one of the most influential book in the scene, his writing style is full of strong metaphores and slang words that white people surely had never heard of at the time. And knowing that Ice Cube or Ice T chose their nickname because of the book is not a big surprise when you think about it. Robert Beck has sold over six millions books prior to his death on April 28, 1992, one day before the Los Angeles riot erupted... (RG)


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