Anyone that reads my stuff on the regular would know by now that I love cheap red wine. Hell, I don’t even discriminate when it comes to its taste. It could taste like water, or just pure unadulterated vinegar. But as long as it’s red, you can bet your ass I’ll drink it – and look damn good while doing it. So you can safely assume that is exactly what I was drinking cheap wine while watching Dave Chappelle‘s The Bird Revelation show on Netflix, on a rather chilly Tuesday off.
Towards the end of the show, Dave tells an interesting story from a book he read about an old school pimp called Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim. Okay, now I don’t have to explain what a pimp does for a living… or do I?🤔
I’ll just dive right in. Briefly put, Iceberg as a pimp would, could tell when a girl was nearing her breaking point and would consider leaving the ‘game’. Now, from what I gather, this does not usually pose a real problem for the pimp unless the girl in question is the cash cow or in this case – the bottom bitch (BB). The bottom bitch in the ‘stable’ is the matriarch, second only to the pimp. Her role is to be the strong arm and she puts all the other girls in line. Dave explains how Iceberg came up with an elaborate plan to rein in his BB after he sensed she wanted to retire. Iceberg tricked her into believing she had committed murder, thereby forcing her to accept his help and staying around for much longer than she had intended.
The cunning scheme got me interested. I’ve heard a lot of awesome stories in my time. But anyone can agree with me that the best part of a story may not be the story itself, but its storyteller. The way Dave told the story made me want to buy the book as soon as I could…
So I did just that, thereby initiating a series of events that would make a once forgotten 50yr old gem a bestseller once again.
That’s great and all Derrick, but can you skip the bullshit and just get on with the review already?
Okay jeez. So from the very first paragraph of the book, you’re hit right in the face with a wrecking ball that sets a fucked up premise for the rest of the book. Iceberg has no chill… pun intended😌.
When your dad throws you against a wall at 6 months of age, and your babysitter makes you perform oral sex on her at age three, then you watch your mum break down the only man you considered a dad with cold precision, you’ll definitely grow up with a hell of a grudge against this world. Iceberg Slim is the true definition of a person with issues.
If the circumstances were better, Iceberg Slim might have been a very successful and legitimate entrepreneur. His shrewd implementation of a high IQ of 175 (as he claims) and a slick, effortless way with words are themes you’ll see throughout the book. Being a pimp surely requires incredibly high levels of charisma, intimidation, manipulation, heartlessness, violence and control over one’s own emotions. Skills needed to be a vulture in today’s unforgiving corporate environment.
A pimp is never supposed to show weakness or his girls leave him for the next best pimp. As you already see, Iceberg as a pimp, is basically what I would consider a scumbag and deserving of a very special place on a furnace. But once you realize that time and circumstances shape the way people think and act, you start to look at things more objectively (Disclaimer: I do not condone his behaviour. I only understand). My main reason for the book was not so much as to indulge in his stories and lavish pimp lifestyle, but to gain some interesting insight into the psyche of a possible sociopath. What makes him tick, and why he does the things he does. I find these things interesting. I’m no sociopath myself, but I research and find information about these things… just in case I get asked about these things on the next episode of The Chase.
I know the book definitely went through edits before it was released. But when you read through the book, you cannot help but see that despite only going up to high school, Iceberg’s writing style and choice of words are incredibly intelligent. It’s almost poetry in a lot of places. And in other places, you see the crude n cold, straight talking, misogynistic delivery that is Slim. I have a fairly good understanding of modern black American street talk due to music and other popular media. But if it wasn’t for the glossary at the end of the book, I would understand very little about what these pimps were talking about when they sat together in the 40s. And mind you, they were speaking English all along!
Between Iceberg’s multiple incarcerations, jailbreak, near sexual experience with a man, and the ridiculously ice cool (yet cocaine-fueled) moment that earned him his nickname, the most interesting bits to me did not revolve around Iceberg Slim himself – but from the crafty ideologies of his mentors. These men are Party Time, Top Glass and that crazy bastard Sweet Jones. The biggest irony here is that for a guy called Sweet, he’s anything but. But in order to keep spoilers to a minimum, I’ll leave it to you to read the book and make your very own assessment of this creature Sweet Jones.
This book could even be renamed ‘A Twisted Introduction to Human Psychology: by Iceberg‘. Despite the crude and chauvinistic nature of the book, there are several little gems of knowledge dropped throughout; Little insights into negotiating skills, manipulation and gaining the upper-hand in mental warfare. You see the footprint left by Sweet Jones, Slim’s most respected mentor, throughout the book. In between, Iceberg also discusses a life that is devoid of love and warmth. But most importantly, a life full of remorse and regret which he addresses in the preface before you even get to the first chapter.
But then when it all comes down to it, it is quite a relief that Iceberg finally decides to leave the game after serving his final term in prison. While following him through his struggles, you start to feel sorry for a man who just doesn’t know what happiness really is. And the reader ends up kind of hoping he gets a chance to free himself from his torment.
Redemption… or Facade?
So luckily enough for Slim, he leaves the game, finds a sensible, strong and supporting wife and is blessed with two kids at the time he writes the book. For a while, Slim finds it very difficult in going straight and getting a legitimate job and struggles to make ends meet. But that is until he makes an acquaintance that encourages him to write about his life. For a man who spent his life deceiving and abusing women, it almost feels like he is undeserving of such a happy ending. But whether or not that is the case is dependent on each reader.
When reading about someone’s life that is more dysfunctional than my own, it gives me an interesting opportunity to learn… and to judge. Learning is the more important part, you learn to appreciate the hardships of the author and soak in the wisdom they share as a result of their lessons learned. But on the other hand, judging the author is a temporal and shallow exercise I still allow myself to indulge in – just because :). But these things are the reason why I love to read.
All in all, Pimp is a beautiful read. Not nearly as good as the Harry Potter series but engaging nonetheless. 7 starrrs out of 10.
Thank you. X