Unpacking Bay Area Pimp Culture with Berkeley Rapper 100s

By Coolhand Luke  |  November 5th, 2012  |  Published in Featured, Music, , , , ,  |  1 Comment

Over the past week, we’ve seen everyone from little kids to grown ass people dressed in elaborate costumes and masquerading in the spirit of Halloween. One such character is a Berkeley pimp named 100s. 100s isn’t actually a pimp, but on his first album Ice Cold Perm, it’s a character he executes with chilling precision. The 19 year-old emcee was born to, and raised by, an African father and Jewish mother in Berkeley before being sent to boarding school in the Ivory Coast as punishment for acting out. It was in Africa that he started to rap, in addition to learning to speak French to communicate with his grand parents.

Needless to say this is not the typical evolution of an American rapper. Some detractors in the comment section of an interview 100s did with VICE have honed in on what they perceive to be a lack of authenticity, because he is of some privilege and isn’t a real pimp. I for one am glad that his Ice Cold Perm persona is fiction rather than auto-biography. What these particular rap nerds are inferring is that they can only enjoy his music if he’s actually trafficked, brain washed, and sold female bodies. It’s a voyeuristic dilemma for squares hoping to live vicariously through an authentic hood oppression that will never touch them.

It’s worth noting that 100s has openly acknowledged that he’s not a pimp. He’s also revealed that his next album will be called Sex Symbol, solidifying the notion that the character he plays in Ice Cold Perm is just an act. When The Mack was filmed in 1973 was Max Julien derided because he wasn’t really a pimp? No, we was respected for playing the part of Goldie so well. Is it possible to view the character 100s portrays on Ice Cold Perm similarly?

Whether 100s is a pimp in deed or words however, the reality he’s promoting is indeed problematic. Pimp culture runs deep in the Bay Area. The occupation has existed for centuries, but no doubt got a new swagger from The Town in the 1970s. The lore around The Mack and Iceberg Slim have fascinated many, and 100s counts himself among those disciples. Rather than making a career in an occupation that exacts human rights violations however, he chose to story tell.

This is where that line between art and life gets blurry. He executes the character so well that those who are sensitive to misogynistic material get understandably triggered, but his ability to get into character should be appreciated on a purely artistic level. Whereas many songs these days live in the “fuck bitches, get money” wheel house, 100s dives into the minds of abusive men and manipulated woman. “Do I save the bitch? Do I lace the bitch? Do I pump up thangs with my activator? Do I call her now? Do I call her later? Do I leave her hangin’ like, ‘bitch I’m through?’ Do I leave her insecure like ‘what I do?’ You should flip for it, heads or tails.” It’s uncomfortable and offensive, but a revealing glimpse of a cold pimp with a dilemma before him.

Driving back from a wedding this weekend, every one in the car (Black, White, Latina, male and female) discussed being raised by the game in the Bay Area. It’s something that has corrupted the minds and relationships of both men and women here. Many men raised by Bay Area hip-hop culture (an offspring of Bay Area pimp culture) don’t treat women chivalrously because doing nice things for women can make you look like a punk to other men, and a potential mark to other women. The name of the game then is to get women to fall for you without giving them anything in return. This “no tricking” ethos pertains specifically to the purchasing of material things, but also entails not giving women your heart or fidelity. The love that is given is fleeting, irregular, and strategic. These behaviors become normalized over time, creating relationships built on deprivation and control – the root of abuse and pimping. Whether this socialization is explicit or not, many men unknowingly adopt thought patterns and actions consistent with this. Women are also socialized by it, expect it, and all too often tolerate it.

While 100s character is a pimp, there are many non-pimps who utilize these same control mechanisms in their relationships with women. So although the pimp tales that are spun on Ice Cold Perm don’t reflect his personal career choice, they are a revealing exploration of a subtle indoctrination that has become a community issue. With this exploitative mentality at play, creating gender equality and healthy relationships within hip-hop culture will always be difficult.

This begs some questions. Do we criticize 100s for promoting abusive gender relations, or salute him for giving voice to a troubling community issue? Do we berate him for not being a real pimp, or commend him for portraying a realistic character with such chilling accuracy? Can we be fans despite his offensive content, much as we’ve done with Too $hort over the years?  That’s on each of us to decide, just remember that hating on 100s won’t rid our society of misogyny. To put it another way, don’t hate the player, change the game.

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  1. Gordo says:

    November 5th, 2012at 8:13 pm(#)

    Right on with the last couple paragraphs about the ‘no-tricking’ mentality leading to pimp-esque relationship patterns…Life influences art and art in turn then influences life. Cool to see this young man shining, who cares if he’s not really pimpin…like Snoop and Kat Williams haven’t played that up before, like half of hip-hop hasn’t thrown around the word and flirted with their (false) associations to that lifestyle before. If people are looking for authenticity, there’s always Suga Free. In the meantime, let ole boy gas about his perm.

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