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Iceberg Slim’s “Pimp”: The Original Gangster’s Timeless Tell-All is a Riveting Read

Iceberg Slim’s Pimp is still riveting reading

It’s not too often that you get a realistic look at the lifestyle of the pimp. If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, what does that mean for the person who runs the streets, collecting money from prostitutes, and making sure they maximize their hustle? Of course, I’m talking about the pimp, an instantly recognizable figure who is the subject of much myth. Thanks to Iceberg Slim’s classic memoir, Pimp, people have a chance to see the life of a pimp, (genital) warts and all. It’s a brutal (and brutally honest) depiction of how a person can dehumanize others in an effort to become wealthy and respected as the best in their game.

The pimp remains one of culture’s most bizarre tropes. For some, the pimp is a person to be envied, a commanding figure who possesses the charisma to bend people to his will while evoking style and supposed sophistication. The pimp has become embedded in culture whether it’s the WWE’s Godfather, Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite, or any other number of pimps in media, we all know who the pimp is and how he makes his money-off the backs of his stable of bitches. Is this an illusion? No, but the other side of the coin is much less attractive.

Unfortunately while the pimp gets the glitz, glam, and green, his employees get the back of his hand and a horrific life. There’s no getting around the reality of exploited women who are used up until they are no longer of any use to the pimp.

The pimp can be found everywhere in culture

Unfortunately, cultural depictions of the pimp usually focus on how cool it is to be a pimp, ignoring what they do to make their money and the terrible toll exacted on their women. Not so with Iceberg Slim’s Pimp.

Pimp is written by Iceberg Slim, an African-American who tells his story of growing up in one broken home after another as he struggled to make it rich. His account of how he saw the pimp game as his chance to make money is fascinating, but nothing compared to the journey he took to become the top pimp of all time. Like most biographies, it’s a story of setbacks and successes, with Iceberg’s efforts hampered by law enforcement as well as his rival pimps. Iceberg Slim talks of the deadly dangers presented by the law and outlaws, which makes his strategy of trial and error in learning the art of pimping both insane and intriguing.

A recognizable figure, even in silhouette

The beauty (if such a word can be used with a pimp’s story) is that Iceberg Slim doesn’t hold anything back, talking about the brutality he inflicted on his women and admitting his complete disregard for them. While the behavior is certainly nothing to emulate, his candor is refreshing, unlike some so-called tell-alls where the author makes excuses for his behavior or sugar-coats some foul deeds. silhouette

Pimp is more than a powerful true crime book, it’s an exploration of one man’s transformation into one of society’s most dangerous predators. Although the book ends with Iceberg reforming himself, I can’t help but wonder whether the three-page demon-to-angel transformation was included in order to make the book more marketable. Whatever the case, Pimp is a timeless read and one you won’t regret reading if you want a raw look at one of society’s rawest professions.

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