Choke No Joke: Chasing Roc-A-Fella

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.

AllHipHop.com:

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

filming.

AllHipHop.com:

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.

AllHipHop.com:

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

light?

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.

AllHipHop.com:

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

is inadequate.

AllHipHop.com:

When is the last time you spoken with Dame Dash and what was the nature of that

conversation?

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 it’s not about the money it’s 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.

AllHipHop.com: What

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

promotions.

AllHipHop.com: When

is the last time you spoken with Jay-Z and what was the nature of that

conversation?

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

separate ways.

AllHipHop.com: So

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.

AllHipHop.com: Tell

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

to uphold.

AllHipHop.com: What

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.

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