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Movie review: ‘Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp’

Posted 5:06pm on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013

R (sexual content, some violent images, strong language); 89 min.


The word “pimp” has become so commonplace — Pimp My Ride, Pimp My Cake, It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp — that the hard edges of its original meaning have been sanded down to the smooth surface of a Snoop Dogg rap-along. But the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp — a fascinating chronicle of the disillusioned pimp-turned-writer whose lurid, paperback novels became an inspiration for a generation of hip-hop performers — reminds viewers of pimpdom’s cruel misogyny while painting a portrait of a colorful cultural figure.

First-time features director Jorge Hinojosa, a longtime associate of Ice-T who produced the rapper’s insightful 2012 documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, has gathered a star-studded gallery of talking heads — Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, Quincy Jones, Chris Rock, Henry Rollins, Katt Williams and Bill Duke among others — to tell the story of the late Iceberg (born Robert Maupin who later became Robert Beck). He endured a troubled childhood and spent time prison before finding his fortune as a pimp.

But money and notoriety didn’t equal happiness and he channeled much of his angst into such ’60s-era books as Pimp: The Story of My Life and Trick Baby. They sold so well that he became one of the bestselling black writers of his day. But, as his royalties were negligible, even this success was bittersweet, like so much of his life.

Hinojosa does a good job of showing Iceberg’s humanity without glossing over the viciousness of his chosen profession. And it’s this tension that makes Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp such a satisfying slice of neglected history.

Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas

— Cary Darling



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