I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before, but wikiquote cites it from the movie New Jack City (1991). I’m not asserting that that is the origin, but it means the phrase is at least that old. In the line quoted, the sense seems slightly different, more like “get real”.
Edit: It was also the title of a hip-hop song on an album by O. G. Style released in 1991. It crops up a lot in rap/hip-hop lyrics.
[ Edited: 30 October 2013 04:12 PM by Dr. Techie ]
I had a bunch of stuff, including a 1991 Aretha Franklin use and the Green’s Dictionary of Slang entry, but the system ate my post. So I’m not going to try to reconstruct it.
In short, my guess would be that it comes from “kicking an idea around” and “ballistics” being a gangsta reference to indisputable facts. It may predate 1991, but my guess would be not by much, at least not in published works. That appears to be about when it broke onto the scene.
Presumably, “ballistics” = “indisputable fact”, by way of “ballistics” being short for “ballistics report”?
Also, FWIW, the quotes with the phrase that I’ve found via googling, both the ones from 1991 and the more recent ones, all seem to involve one “actively” taking stock of what is happening, rather than “passively” realizing that a situation is very serious.