A hustler recounts a life filled with drugs, sex, violence and some occasional love for the Man Upstairs.
In some respects, it’s refreshing to read the memoir of a hardcore thug who, despite a jailhouse conversion, hasn’t necessarily seen the light, a man who makes no apologies–and asks no forgiveness–for his willingness to exploit the weaknesses of others. On the other hand, this story of a misogynistic drug-dealer whose main concerns are himself and his money (not necessarily in that order) sheds little insight into the human condition. Though Nesta Ali’s childhood was a troubled one–his father killed a man shortly before his birth; his parents separated when he was young; his father caroused with numerous women in between drug deals–he had a loving, supportive mother and no shortage of intelligence and determination. Despite (he claims) attempting repeatedly to apply those qualities to legal activities (a short stint as a writer was his most successful endeavor), hustling–and the habits that go hand-in-hand with dealing–was too deeply embedded in him. While his cleverness and unique sense of integrity served him well on the streets, his selfishness and the inherently unpredictable nature of hustling led to a constant cycle of booms and busts, including a few prison sentences. That same selfishness precludes any chance of Ali achieving true intimacy, and despite an abundance of women in his life, he marks the duration of successful relationships in weeks or months rather than years. Of course, the fact that he often beats his women into submission might provide some insight into why he always ends up alone. The narrative is by turns fascinating and repulsive, intriguing and reprehensible. The ghetto slang belies the sharp writing, but the constant repetition of fights, drug overdoses and abusive relationships quickly becomes monotonous.
Potential enlightenment is trumped by too much crunk in the trunk.