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Robert "Iceberg Slim" Beck was a mess of contradictions whose works have transformed African American literature and culture. There would have been no blaxploitation or hip-hop the way that we know them today without Pimp: The Story of My Life. To a wide range of readers Iceberg Slim is the definitive voice of black urban life and to his critics he is a misogynist who wrote trashy paperbacks that promote violence against vulnerable young women; both outlooks have a degree of truth to them.
In 1976 Beck recorded Reflections, in which he recites four street poems accompanied by Red Holloway's jazz quartet. Beck's deep voice is full of velvety menace and combined with Holloway's mellow riffs, the album has all the ambiance of a haze filled lounge. In his polished and riveting monologues, Beck spins spellbinding tales of the dark side of ghetto glamour – the drug addiction, the violence against women, and the street rivalries. The album closes with Beck's most personal track, "Mama Debt," where he probes deeper into the psychological traumas and troubled childhood that led him to pimping and his incarceration.
Although he didn't know it at the time, Beck's works inspired the most powerful artistic response to America's new police state: gangsta rap. The two most influential gangsta-style rappers, Ice-T and Ice Cube, both named themselves after Iceberg Slim, and they styled their anti establishment messages and hardcore confessionals of violent street life after Beck's street fiction. Reflections returns to vinyl in 2018 via Modern Harmonic, on colored LP in a gatefold jacket with freshened up artwork, new liner notes from Justin Gifford, author of Street Poison: The Biography Of Iceberg Slim, and a whole lot of profanity.