as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren
Twin directors Albert and Allen Hughes, the auteurs behind Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, spent two years criss-crossing the country for their eye-opening American Pimp. Whatever criticism has been leveled at the documentary has come from lily-white left-wing liberals and their black counterparts who can whine all they want about the exploitation of women, but fail to understand the complexities that lead people to this line of work.
With the surprisingly articulate explanations of the two dozen "macks," those reasons remain somewhat elusive, but as the lives and impulses of professional wrestlers were dissected in the recent Beyond the Mat, the world of the pimp proves to be far more nuanced than "squares" (as outsiders are called) would imagine.
Although handfuls of blaxploitation clips provide some context (as well as footage from the annual Player's Ball in Wisconsin), the grit comes from the interviews with the pimps themselves. Bedecked in designer suits and $1000 pairs of shoes, they break down the business, the women, the life, and the consequences of being part of an underground economy. Andrea, an unbelievably lucid mack born from a union between a pimp and his ho, provides Pimp with a narrative thread, even after he lands in jail.
Pimping boils down to two things: race and economics. As San Francisco grand-pimp Fillmore Slim explains, "pussy will sell, when cotton and corn won't." Pimping proves to be a black man's game; one that requires discipline, psychology and business smarts. (As one pimp puts it, pimping is "the only game the white man can't control. The motherfuckers don't have the charisma.")
The players drip charisma. Although none advocate prostitution as a glamorous profession, most are genuinely caring towards their women. (One retired pimp who married his employee explains, "it's not matrimony, it's mack-ri-mony.") Eminem is only the latest to lament that "all chicks is hos," but the professionals interviewed for Pimp explain that both sexes play mind games.
Pimp drags on too long, although you can't really blame the Hughes Brothers for being loose with the editing; everything that falls from the lips of these men is amazing and supremely quotable. Pimp is definitely a doc to catch, and ought to make a good primer for Ice Cube's upcoming biopic of Iceberg Slim, a black street cat who novelized his ghetto life in the '70s.