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Pimp: The Story of My Life

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  8,103 ratings  ·  719 reviews
Robert (Iceberg Slim) Beck's first book is told without bitterness and with no pretense at moralizing. It is the smells, the sounds, the fears and the petty triumphs in the world of the street pimp.
Paperback, 311 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Payback Pr (first published 1967)
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Jeffrey Keeten
“A pimp is happy when his whores giggle. He knows they are still asleep...all whores have one thing in common just like the chumps humping for the white boss. It thrills ‘em when the pimp makes mistakes. They watch and wait for his downfall.

A pimp is the loneliest bastard on Earth. He’s gotta know his whores. He can’t let them know him. He’s gotta be God all the way.”

 photo Iceberg Slim_zpsi2b4vujw.jpg
Iceberg Slim

Iceberg Slim, AKA Robert Beck, attended Tuskegee University until he was expelled for selling bootleg liquor. What
Jul 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I bought this as an impulse purchase because it was displayed right next to the cash register at Shakespeare & Co. I'd seen it in the AK Press catalog before, and that is probably what made me pick it up. Pimp is entertaining in a kind of trashy way. It's a biography about a part of life that many middle class suburban folks like me don't know anything about. I have no idea how truthful the book is, or if it is sensationalism, or maybe even utter bullshit like those 'confessional' books written ...more
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who keep ocelots as pets
Iceberg Slim didn't invent the great American pimp archetype in 1969 but he codified it, he exposed it to mass culture, so he's an influential writer. Everything from Slick Rick to blaxploitation to the pathetic "pickup artist" scene owes a debt to him. So when Robin Kelley writes for the New Yorker, "I'm always amazed when I encounter well-read people unfamiliar with Iceberg Slim," I kinda get it. But then, does influence equal value? I mean, is this a good book? Are you going to like it?

It's n
The thing about Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck, the reason he is so magnetic, is that he is actually not the “Iceberg” he pretended to be. In this memoir of his life on the streets, he revels in his successes but also agonizes over his failures. He seems to tell us straight: this worked, that didn’t. He concludes it is necessary to hide one’s feelings behind an icy exterior, hiding his fear and doubt and empathy from his stable of whores and from other con men on the street who would double-cross hi ...more
"Any good pimp is his own best company. His inner-life is so rich with cunning and scheming to out-think his whores."
- Iceberg Slim, Pimp: The Story of My Life


Iceberg Slim dances on that thread between unapologetic and remorseful. He loves and hates his mama. He loves and hates the game. This isn't a book you read because you want eroticism. This isn't Les Miserables. There isn't much at the end that redeems the story or the storyteller. HOWEVER, Iceberg Slim can write. His narrative is sharp.
Dec 30, 2013 marked it as to-read
Photo with Pimp Stick

On Proxenetism and Pandering as Metaphors for Book-Reviewing

From a feminist/post-colonial viewpoint, the activities of book-reviewing and pimping have much in common. Operating within a patriarchal structure, the reviewer-pimp claims power over the essentially female text (recall Derrida's useful concept of "invagination"), and offers it to the reader-john as part of a quasi-commercial transaction where he is paid with "likes" or "comments". Just as the pimp symbolizes dominance over his girls
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone properly preparing for a pimp-n-ho party
Recommended to Chris by: my local pimp
“Pimp” is fantastic. For about a decade now this has been one of my favorite books, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Granted, I should immediately admit that I probably like this book for all the wrong reasons; I’m sure that the ‘correct’ grounds for appreciating “Pimp” (if such standards have been established) are to ponder the struggles of the black man fighting to rise up in American society and to look at the infelicitous lot he’s been subjected to and to carefully inspect the in ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is not a book you can "like." It is a repulsive book you can learn something from and hope desperately that conditions have changed since its publication. You'll find cultural commentary and insights into the psyche, but you'll also find vile, unimaginable misogyny and disregard for humanity in general. I suppose I learned something, but the urge to vomit accompanied that awful education. Why the four stars, you say? Old Iceberg Slim's tale, in the most (for lack of any other way to say it) ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wonder how many people will end up here because of Dave Chappelle's Netflix special.

Interesting book, the language is coarse and rather offensive to women, but that was the times they lived in.

I wonder if the pimp game today is still as complex as it was back then. I'd recommend it to everyone to read, especially if you enjoy the show Boondocks and the character A Pimp named Slickback.
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
You can try to sanitize this book, as Ervine Welsh has done in the introduction, and treat it as report on the social conditions of the racist America of the 1940’s and 50’s and one Black man’s attempt to break out of the cycle through the only way he found possible, blah blah blah. I couldn’t be bothered with any of this. I picked up this book to read some cool pimp talk. Pimp daddies and their bitches going about their binniz. Mindless degenerate entertainment. Like watching rap videos of the ...more
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiography, sexist
Think of the worst crimes a person can commit: murder, rape, child molestation, pandering drugs, torture, slavery. It doesn't matter which of those you think might be worse than any other. Take your pick. And then consider:

The pimp engages in all those things. They are, in fact, his routine.

I picked this book up after having stumbled across the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp produced by Ice-T. Here's the trailer:

That film was interesting enou
091118: brutal, ugly, honest, energetic. not a world i know, have ever known, this is written in 1967, set throughout twentieth century. so maybe bad things have happened to me in early years, but i also grew up comfortably, i had good parents, good brother, good travel, good schooling, some friends, some girls, book intelligence if not street, rewarded art inclinations, did not ever much suffer racism, poverty, deceit, stupidity, cruelty, assault, or any of the many ways that the author has suf ...more
Rebecca McNutt
From the films and modern music videos often pushed out in the media, many people often see life on the streets, surrounded by girls, money and drugs, to be glamorous, but Pimp is one of few books that gives readers a view of the ugly side of things, as told from the perspective of a former pimp himself. Beneath the gold and lights and fast music and fun, there is crime, a false sense of materialism, prostitution, junkies and winos, hobos and crooks, corrupt cops and danger at every turn. It's a ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: trash, funny
What does it mean to be a hero in an antagonistic universe?
This book is a thoughtful and brutal examination of the choices one is forced to make in a world turned against the individual. In prose reminiscent of a street-wise Dostoyevsky, the author recounts the story of his life through various moralistic phases. These tend to impress upon the reader a recurring theme, not of the universe's intense silence to human cries, but of openly ambivalent laughter and playfulness that voices itself most
Scott Rhee
Oct 28, 2015 rated it liked it
“[A] pimp is really a whore who has reversed the game on whores. So... be as sweet as the scratch, no sweeter, and always stick a whore for a bundle before you sex her. A whore ain’t nothing but a trick to a pimp. Don’t let ‘em Georgia you. Always get your money in front just like a whore.” ---Iceberg Slim, “Pimp: The Story of My Life”

Robert Beck, a.k.a. Iceberg Slim, was born in 1918 to a single mother. He never knew his father, who left town before he was born. His mother worked several jobs t
Sarah Etter
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
where to start with this book? some of the most gruesome scenes i've ever read, but i couldn't resist it. about three pages in, i had to put it down and take a deep breath.

anyway - gut-wrenching account of life as a pimp before it became gangster rap fodder. i know there's a big debate - at least at the academic level - about whether slim wrote this book or it was ghostwritten. i'm not sure that matters to me - the story still needs to be told.

it's interesting that despite the fact that slim e
May 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining to the core, but that doesn't mean Iceberg brushes over the nuance and complexity surrounding his situation. "The Skull Book on Pimping" concisely covers issues that sociologists have prattled about in dense and meaningless jargon for decades. Slim is among the few honest autobiographers in his embrace of his contradictions. The book is neither self-glorifying nor moralizing. Nor is it, and it does not pretend to be, simply the facts. Like the hip-hop music it would influence severa ...more
"The tougher a stud is, the more a whore goes for him."

"Fast, I got to find out the secrets of pimping. I don’t want to be a half-ass gigolo lover like the white pimps. I really want to control the whole whore. I want to be the boss of her life, even her thoughts. I got to con them that Lincoln never freed the slaves.”

"Serena begged my mother to tell me to come back. She wouldn’t file charges. It was all her fault and she loved me. I knew that if I had gone back Serena would have driven a
Wynne Kontos
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I began a "borrowing library" in my office, where I work as a social worker in the Bronx. Reading has always been a passion of mine, especially books about the city I now call home and human suffering that has always informed my work.
Many of my clients don't enjoy reading, and I have few people utilizing my books, but one client in particular is a frequent borrower and when I told him I was reading this memoir, he shared with me several books that were important to him growing up, this being on
Smooth. Slick. Poetic, slithered in pimpology.

I think it is clear pimps are not nice people. They are cunning, abusive, emotionless creatures and liars. And their street walkers are lost souls, foolish and not too bright. That's why I loved this book. It's blunt, gritty, and organic.

Some might read Pimp and believe it's teaching tool how to pimp and to whore. Granted, while some might read this book and take it that way, I look at it as to why one shouldn't get into the life at all. Like what I
Lex Alexander
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one thing that I did learn from this book, and it's a lesson that will stay ingrained in my head for the rest of my life is that even the freakiest bitch don't like to be hit with a wire coat hanger that's been twisted into a metal whip. Even if the woman likes being smacked around, being beaten with the coat hanger will set her straight (straight meaning here spread her legs willingly for you, and then spread them for money which she will then give to you without cheating you of any of it). ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Slim writes with poetic ease of the streets, he was born with storytellers talent. He lived a hard life and was a real pimp sometimes he doesn't fully describe his pimp ways, but I'm sure he wasn't as soft as he sometimes portrays. I love all Slims books and suggest them to any one interested in the world of prostitution and big city's back in the good old days, when gangsters were truly gangsters and hustling was an exciting way of life. Similar style to my idol Herbert Huncke, pure, natural & ...more
Samuel M.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful story of underground America.
Courtney~ Bring on the suspense~
I watched the documentary where this book was so hyped up. It was good, not great. I listened to it in audiobook. I think it was overhyped a tad bit. I wish I’d had the glossary prior to listening. I think that would have helped a lot.
Jim Barton
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's not everyday you read an autobiography of a pimp with an IQ of 175? I first became interested in Iceberg Slim back in my formative years in the late 60s when I frequented a bookstore that had books by Iceberg Slim hidden behind the counter as if they were porn. Although I never dared to ask about the books, I was fascinated by the author's name and the 'forbidden-fruit' treatment of his books. Later, in the early seventies I saw and enjoyed the movie version of his book, Trick Baby. But, I ...more
Samsquatch Samsquatch
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I learned everything i know from this book. I was practically raised by it, as well as sports highlights commentary reels. I currently am a pastor at the Skokie Baptist revival church in Skokieville, NY, and I make all my flock read this book. I've actually taped the pages into my bible (after Deuteronomy), so I can quote easily from it. Sure, some of the older members don't like the dirty language and risque situations (the scene where all the ho's air their battered pussies out of the side of ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I tried hard to make up for all those years. I had neglected her. It's hard to square an emotional debt. That last sad day she looked up into my eyes from the hospital bed. In a voice I could scarcely hear through her parched lips, she whispered, 'Forgive me, Son, forgive me. Mama didn't know. I'm sorry.'
I stood there watching her last tears rolling down her dead cheeks from the blank eyes. I crushed her to me. I tried to get my final plea past death's grim shield, 'Oh Mama, nothing has been yo
Marsha Altman
Jan 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
I tried this on a recommendation from Dave Chapelle's comedy special. It's probably an important piece of American culture, from a sociology perspective. That said, I just couldn't make it through it. I almost never give up on a book for cursing or sex, so I think it's just how much the character hates women and how dirty I felt reading it that made me put it down. Not that Iceberg Slim would be offended.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Devastating. Violent. A tremendous ride to the dark side with an immediate return ticket to the square life. This was a brutal read.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I picture the human mind as a movie screen. If you’re a dopey sucker, you’ll just sit and watch all kinds of mind-wrecking, damn fool movies on that screen. Son, there is no reason except a stupid one for anybody to project on that screen anything that will worry him or dull that vital edge. After all, we are the absolute bosses of that whole theatre and show in our minds. We even write the script. So always write positive,dynamic scripts and show only the best movies for you on that screen whe ...more
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Iceberg Slim, also known as Robert Beck, was born as Robert Lee Maupin. Novelist and poet whose most famous novel, Pimp, is semi-autobiographical.

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“Before I'd touch a square bitch's slit,
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