Iceberg Slim is the pimp who influenced gangsta rap

A look on Robert Beck’s life

The pimp persona, ubiquitous in the rap scene of the 1990s, draws its origins in the story of Robert Beck, a.k.a Iceberg Slim, a former Chicago pimp in the 1950s, who published in 1967 a memoir titled PIMP. The book heavily influenced a lot of rappers, who then claimed the legacy of the pimp as an integral part of hip-hop’s history.


A pimp is a man who went to jail, who drives a Cadillac, the neck full of jewels, and, who wears a fur coat even by 100 F° (#streetcred). Idolized by most people, he was, back then, a symbol of success materialized by his lavish lifestyle and his ornamented accessories. The most iconic of them all was probably Iceberg Slim.

He indeed is a key reference when it comes to pimps, as he is the original pimp, the first to have described the universe and the everyday life of this controversial character.

Released from prison, Beck pursued his pimping activities, juggling between girls, drugs and beautiful cars. He quickly gained the status of Chicago’s most notorious pimp but gave up on procuring when his mother passed away in 1961. He began to write PIMP and started a family the same year.

PIMP, published in 1967, was the first book at the time documenting the lives of African-Americans. It addresses the realities they had to face in a raw, yet poetic manner. Iceberg did not just explain how the game works, he dived into its roots and described the pain and the trauma it caused to him and the people around him, without filter, using a whole lotta slang.

Robert Beck then published two other novels, Trick Baby, in 1967, about a white scammer named ‘White Folks’, which became a Blaxploitation movie and Mama Black Widow, in 1969, the journey of a homosexual Afro-American man.

These three books are considered as the ghetto trilogy and had a real impact on the Afro-American literature. Iceberg Slim is still considered as one of the most influential authors of the 1960s as of today.