Filmmaker Choke No Joke is a master at his craft and is the
force behind indie film Code Blue (Sundy Carter, Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos), Gano
Grills, JD Williams (The Wire), Jade
Yorker, Chuck Zito, Dennis White). When Choke’s rap
career did not move at the rate he anticipated, he decided to turn his focus to
creating the tell-all documentary I Am
Choke No Joke, which details his early experience in the rap industry and
the Roc-A-Fella break-up.
Hungering for the opportunity to get behind the camera Choke
started filming at the infamous Tunnel nightclub in NYC. Undaunted and
determined to launch his career as a filmmaker and to return to the scene as a
burgeoning rapper, Choke is adding his music to the
soundtrack of his life.
The filmmaker/rapper who offers a brimful of twist on the
rise and fall of Roc-A-Fella Records sat down with
AllHipHop.com to discuss the nature of his documentary, the reason he departed
ways with Dame Dash and why he is hardly deterred by past obstacles.
Tell us who is Choke No Joke and where the name derives from?
Choke No Joke:
The name derives from me entering the rap game in the early 90′s. My nickname
is Arty and they use to call me Artichoke, so I took the Choke and added No
Joke to it. Back then rapping was not paying my bills so I just continued
writing and recording, even today I’m working with Cormega.
Once I got into producing and directing, I just used it as my director’s name.
I grew up in the Bronx, Edenwald
Projects I had a rough life. My father died when I was sixteen. When he died,
he left all the bread to my mother and sister with a note saying, that I was a
man and I had to fend for myself. I had a rough street life. I got into the
entertainment industry modeling and acting. I eventually started getting into
Looking back 10 years ago, did you see yourself in this position?
Choke No Joke:
No. Ten years ago, I was filming in the Tunnel recording different dudes every
week and doing a public access show. I did not think I would get to the point
where I am now, travelling internationally by private jets going to Africa,
London, Paris, Italy and Amsterdam all several times. I did not think I would
accomplish so much in my life.
Critics are calling your documentary [I Am Choke No Joke], “the dirty laundry of the Roc-A-Fella Records break up. “ Do you feel you will be blackballed or that others will be
hesitant to work with you because their life may be exposed in an unfavorable
Choke No Joke: I
am not worried about the whole blackball thing. This industry lets in who they want to let in. My record of accomplishments speaks
for itself. For someone to not want to work with me for fear of exposing them is ridiculous.
You know how many people I’ve worked for in this industry and stuff that
I saw? Trust me, no one in the industry is worried about that. I’ve been in it too long and never put no one out there.
As far as airing the dirty laundry of Roc-A-Fella, that
is not what I am doing. I’m not
talking about things you do not know from the public news. I was apart of Roc-A
-Fella for three years as a videographer and doing
video production. When I’m telling my story… I am telling my story about my life (Choke No Joke) in the
entertainment industry and my trials and tribulations and all the places I been
and the people I worked for. It’s just the fact, that I worked at Roc-A-Fella at the time during the break up and I happened to
capture it on camera. People
gravitate towards that aspect because it’s intriguing to them but the film is
more to it than a sensational headline.
How true is the rumor that the death of the dynasty was due to R&B singer Aaliyah?
Choke No Joke:
There is no truth to that. To say they broke up over Aaliyah
When is the last time you spoken with Dame Dash and what was the nature of that
Choke No Joke:
The last time I spoke to Dame, I was working at BET as a producer of Rap City
in 2005, and State Property II was
coming out. I invited him and some of the cast to be on the show to give them
exposure for the film. I might have seen him once or twice after that and we
just said what is up and kept it moving.
Our friendship/business relationship ended due to the fact I
was not being credited for a lot of work I was doing. So I had a gripe with him
because I work hard and its not about the money its about the credit. You get
your next job off the work people know that you have done. I was not getting
that credit and the label was overshadowing my creativity. That is the reason
why dude and me fell out. But, it
was not stopping me from giving him a platform to showcase his talent as a
Director of State Property II. I’m
not holding any grudges.
We took several trips to the U.K. I was shooting 16-20 hours
a day for two weeks straight because Dame would not sleep. He put out the
International Grizzly, in that film he states, “I brought a camera man
with me, I do not want to mention his name.” When
it goes off you see the credit bed and there is no mentioning of Choke No Joke.
I shot the thing 100% by myself. I am bitter behind that because I put in all
that work and did not get any credit and I had to go through the jokes and
disrespect. Not to mention he didn’t get consent to make me a character or
anyone else for that matter.
The last straw with Dame and me was when the show, Get Fresh with the Roc aired on BET they
only credit Dame as Executive Producer and Johnny Nunez as the photographer.
After that, we got into an argument on Roc Radio on XM Satellite and it almost
got physical. I just quit and walked out and never went back. People thought I
was crazy because Roc-A-Fella was considered the
promise land. I felt good about it because I stuck with my decision and went on
to work for BET and do a few other projects.
are your thoughts on Dame Dash?
Choke No Joke: Dame
is aight when he’s not showing off for people. He has
a good heart but when he got a taste of the spotlight it made him a different
person. I love him a lot because
he gave me a great opportunity but it doesn’t change the fact that he do people
dirty in business and he’s an asshole. People should know Dame is not a
creative dude. He is the dude that can push a good product. He is a hustler as far as marketing and
is the last time you spoken with Jay-Z and what was the nature of that
Choke No Joke: The
last time I spoke to Jay-Z was at Diddy’s birthday
party last year. In fact, it was the day after Obama won the election. I
approached him and asked him if he knew who I was. He was not too sure, so I
told him. I brought up my documentary and he said he did not want to talk about
it right now. We shook hands and I told him I respect him and we walked our
during your time at Roc-A-Fella you had little
interaction with him as opposed to the other members?
Choke No Joke: In
the three years I was at Roc-A-Fella , Jay never came to the office once. Him and Dame beef was
already going, but it was never publicized. He would come in the building and
check Lyor Cohen and go to 27th floor but he never
came to the 29th floor. It was Dame running the label with all the other artists
and Jay handling Jay-Z business. Dame ran the day-to-day business
that were under the Roc-A-Fella umbrella. That’s why when they split Roc-A-Fella as we knew it crumbled. Ask any of the artists that stayed with Jay-Z after the
split if they missed Dame being around to run the label and despite Dame’s
arrogance I bet they all will say yes.
us about the movie Code
Blue and your position on that film.
Choke No Joke: Code
Blue is my first feature film that I produced, directed, casted and edited. Four
childhood friends (Gano Grills, Jade Yorker, Rell and JD Williams) , who
witness murder by the hand of the law vow vengeance on all who represent the
color blue. Their lives will
forever changed when one of their own becomes a
officer of the law. Tyrone Jones
(JD Williams) a cop now finds himself in a place where his loyalty is at stake
and he must choose between his life long friends or the job in which he’s sworn
is next for Choke No Joke?
Choke No Joke: I
just left BET. I was producing BET Now.
The last thing I worked on was BET
Notarized show; the top 100 videos of 2008. I am
chilling right now. I did not have a break in two years. I’m also seeking distribution for the
movie for limited theatrical and DVD release. As well as looking to do a joint venture with
either Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Will Smith, Tracey Edmonds, Russell
Simmons, Tyler Perry, Ice Cube, Lyor Cohen, Spike TV
or Jimmy Iovine to do a production company so I can
put out projects where I’m the final say and have creative control. I’m sitting
on several multi-million dollar projects and I refuse to give them to a network
or company without ownership and being involved. People are going to know it’s my work forever. People know
I’m super creative and I have been holding on to the best of the best.