Iceberg Slim wrote the book on pimping. The long-time pimp and drug addict turned his life around, embraced “the square life” he once derided and published his memoirs, Pimp: The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim. His gritty, unsentimental portrayal was an almost instant street success, and while Slim spoke of his pimping years with regret, it also served as an inspiration to legions of aspiring rappers (especially Too $hort and Ice T) and would-be pimps and hustlers.
Somewhere along the way, Iceberg Slim put his stories to record. Rather than a straight reading, Slim took four stories and turned them into epic rhyming poetry, backed up by the Rod Holloway Quartet, who could switch from late night bar jazz in “The Fall” to a laid-back funky vamp of “On Broadway” for “Broadway Sam” to heartbreakingly poignant on “Mama Debt.”
The four poems all deal with underworld themes, and while they might document the high living and excitement of the pimping life, they all involve comeuppance or tragedy at the end, making it difficult to understand how a listener could view these tales as inspirational or recruitment materials into “the game.”
Reflections closes with “Mama Debt,” perhaps the most depressing poem in the set, in which the protagonist, fresh out of jail, arrives at his mother’s deathbed. His self-assured rejection of her religious beliefs turns to poignant reflection as his mother’s recollections of poverty and great hopes for her son cut him to the quick.
Iceberg Slim has a laid-back approach through the poems, and while a bit more relaxed than the similar “Hustler’s Convention” by Lightning Rod, his precise diction and smooth flow can be hypnotizing. It’s easy to see how Slim was able to talk women into his stable, and modern listeners should watch out, lest they find Iceberg’s silky tones have charmed them into a pair of hot pants and platform shoes.