In my humble upbringing, my family generally couldn’t afford cable television. We were blessed enough however to have a TV & VCR; having sufficiently dated myself with that statement already, I can recall having (and incessantly re-watching) a VHS tape of the 1992 film Deep Cover, starring Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum. Their character portrayals in the film are likely the reason I’m such a huge fan of both actors to this day. “Deep Cover” had a fairly similar story-line to the 1999 film In Too Deep. The latter holds a fond place in my memories for it’s own reasons, but the former is held a bit closer to my heart due to the rosy lenses of adolescent nostalgia.
There were a few quotes from the movie that stood out enough that I remember them virtually word for word to this day; Fishburne’s character recounts verses of a poem from memory:
You know the jungle creed say that the strongest feed on any pray it can, and I was branded beast at every beast before I ever became a man.
Later in the film he also says the following:
Where junkies prowl and the tigers growl in search of that much needed blow, where whino’s cringe on a can-heat binge and find their graves in the snow…
After doing some searching around recently, I found that both passages are lines from the same verse, albeit slightly altered. They’re from a spoken-word piece on the Reflections album by Iceberg Slim, released in 1976. Now, a great many black folks my age were likely well familiar with the musings of Iceberg Slim from a young age, but either no one in my family thought he was important enough to teach me about, or none of them knew. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about his pimp past, which he casually parlayed into a career as an author. His 1969 autobiography Pimp: The Story of My Life should likely be required reading for any black man who’s come of age, not as a blueprint for how to do things right, but more so as a chronicle of what can happen when one does things terribly wrong, and even beyond that, an example of the possibilities to pick yourself up when you’ve fallen so far.
My son is only five years old as of this writing, so he’s a far cry from being ready to absorb such literature… but rest assured I’ll plan to keep a copy on deck for recommended reading when he’s ready.