As a videographer for Damon Dash during the decline of Roc-A-Fella, Arthur Alston known within the industry as “Choke No Joke” captured many a moment on camera that The Death of a Dynasty failed to depict.
Showcasing his documentary I am Choke No Joke throughout the country and with plans to take it overseas, it gives the viewer an insight to the alter ego of the music industry, the extensive travels of its creator and a clearer picture of just how inevitable the split of one of Hip-Hop’s major brands actually was.
With an extensive resume in television and video, Choke No Joke opts to give the viewer not just a look at the diminishing relationship between Jay-Z and Damon Dash, but exposes some of the pain, in the literal sense, he suffered while doing his job under the Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella umbrella. Here he talks in depth to AllHipHop.com about the subliminal messages in Jay-Z’s rhymes, where he stands after washing this dirty Hip-Hop laundry in public and what damage ego can do to relationships of all natures.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you opt to put the documentary out now?
Choke No Joke: The documentary is somewhat personal because it is my life; there is nothing fabricated in it. A lot of people know my name but a lot of people don’t know my work and a lot of the companies I worked for, the companies overshadowed what I did. Dame released an album, The Paid in Full Soundtrack and I came up with this concept to do ten different commercials for that same album but using each artist that was on there. The commercials were crazy and one even got banned. One day we were at Power 105 with Ed Lover on the morning show and Ed Lover was like “Yo those commercials are crazy, who did that?” and Dame said “We did, at Roc-A-Fella” and I was standing right there. I couldn’t even get that credit.
AllHipHop.com: But that’s the game, isn’t it?
Choke No Joke: Well yeah, when someone sees talent in you and they give you opportunity, they don’t want others to know about this diamond in the rough because other corporations may try and steal them away by giving them a bigger check, you know what I am saying?
AllHipHop.com: Of course. So what are your plans for the documentary?
Choke No Joke: To continue screening it state to state to showcase my work. There is a valuable lesson in my documentary I Am…Choke No Joke and every industry person or who is inspired to be in the industry needs to see it, especially if they’re doing business with friends.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have any communication with Damon Dash now?
Choke No Joke: We speak in passing. By the time this runs we will have sat down and spoke. He reached out to me about the documentary and I sent him a copy to view. Now we are going to sit down and talk.
AllHipHop.com: Part of the documentary shows Dame blowing up at a Def Jam marketing meeting for The Black Album, did they know that was being filmed?
Choke No Joke: Yes of course, I had a Sony PD150 in my hand; anyone who knows cameras knows how big that is. Everyone knew I was filming, this is three years ago and no one has said anything now about me filming that. No one asked me for this tape. Everyone in that room knew it was there and everyone knew me or knew of me.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think you will have to take any backlash or have you already?
Choke No Joke: People respect it because it shows the real industry. People would never believe what has taken place and my thing is this, I was telling people when I was at Roc-A-fella, “Jay-Z was leaving, Jay-Z and Dame had problems,” and people would say I didn’t know what I was talking about. I told Kenny Burns this and he wouldn’t believe me, he thought I was exaggerating. But I listen to music and I was listening to Jay-Z his whole career, you know I have seen him perform for 50 people and then I have seen him perform for 50,000 people. He is the King of Subliminal, you know he could be talking about something, and people could miss it. By me putting that documentary together was more like, now that it is out and we all know Jay and Dame don’t work together no more, I am going to show you what I was telling you all along. There is a key part to why they don’t deal with each other which I am not going to say, but they know, what sparked it from the beginning but everything else was in the music. Jay has a song called “Rock Star.” This came out after Cam put out “Dip Set Anthem” and Jay-Z dropped an S.Carter Mixtape, it was when his sneaker first came out, 2002 maybe and he says “I am King of the Roc, there is none higher, f**k ‘Jay-Z’ y’all should call me ‘sire,’ I wont stop rocking till I retire, I got Lyor rich, Y’all got n***as fired, I am the Cash cow, and I am about to cash out, drop The Black Album and back out, I ain’t got to come back out to pull that Maybach out the garage, I do this for a living, getting money my job/ I got the army in the cut.” This is in 2002. There he is basically saying I am going to drop this album, I am cashing out, meaning splitting up the company and I’m going my way and I have my artists already in the cut. If that wasn’t blatantly saying I am out of here and I got n***as ready and we got our own thing; everyone knew he was going to start S.Carter Records.
AllHipHop.com: Did it bother you people not listening to your predictions?
Choke No Joke: No, that was why I was able to leave before the s**t went down and be already established at BET, producing Rap City. I already saw what was going to happen and I wasn’t going to sit there like everybody else and go down with the ship. Dame knew for sure after that marketing meeting that Jay was out, he just didn’t say anything. He knew that if he told people, he knew people didn’t like him and they only f**ked with him because he had Jay-Z. So before it went public, he got everything out of it that he could before people found out. He knew a long time ago, he signed artists knowing that he couldn’t even put them out because Def Jam wasn’t cutting them anymore budgets. How many artists never come out? O.D.B., M.O.P., Rell, N.O.R.E., Oschino and Sparks, Samantha Ronson, Peedi Crack to name a few. Without even speaking to Dame, I know he is hurt by this; he showed the emotion in that conference room. Dame been wanting to get out of the music business, he stayed in the game so all the other artists could eat. Regardless of what they may say about Dame, he could have easily walked away from that and things could have been really been bad. But he stayed in the music so that these artists could make some money or at least build a foundation before he left, because he knew when that contract was up, he probably wasn’t going to be doing the music no more. Like right now he probably doesn’t want to and that is why he isn’t rushing to do anything with DDMG. His heart is not in it as he wants to do film. His heart was in clothing, Roc-A-Wear would not be where it is today without Dame and I feel as bad as he got pushed out, well bought out as every day I saw that dude go to that office every day for two to three years, look at every sample.
AllHipHop.com: But wasn’t that what made Dame a good manager, he handled the business and let his artists make music?
Choke No Joke: Jay-Z was handling his business and Dame was handling everything else, so yes.
AllHipHop.com: Would you go back to working with Dame if the opportunity arose?
Choke No Joke: I would, but it would have to be just me and him, you couldn’t put anyone between him and I.
AllHipHop.com: There is a part in the documentary that shows you on the floor, filming as you are being kicked by a multitude of Tims. That was possibly the only part throughout the documentary that left a question mark over my head.
Choke No Joke: I am not trying to put people out there.
AllHipHop.com: There is an underlying element there obviously.
Choke No Joke: Well with that said, I could have sued all of them. I was a Roc-A-Fella employee with an Island Def Jam badge on, working.
AllHipHop.com: Why did that happen?
Choke No Joke: Because people weren’t f**king with each other and that is how I knew ahead of time, by what happened to me.
AllHipHop.com: Were you a scapegoat then?
Choke No Joke: No I wasn’t a scapegoat, but I was a pawn. When I seen that happen and how I knew what was wrong, I came in the office one day and Jim Jones saw my injuries.
AllHipHop.com: Were they extensive?
Choke No Joke: Yes. Jim Jones asked me what happened and I told him and he told me to get my money and when he said that I knew exactly what it was about.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel that your loyalty was taken advantage of, you know the codes of the streets etc. always plays a big part in situations in Hip-Hop?
Choke No Joke: The reason I didn’t sue was yeah, because of my street loyalty. My code of the streets, my street ethics, I could have easily told and have been a millionaire by now. I had no loyalty to the Roc, it was just a job to me, I didn’t grow up with them, I didn’t even know them prior to my employment there. My employment came about because Dame seen one of my DVDs and was impressed that I produced and directed it myself and put it out and for that reason he hired me as he knew I could do everything by myself as I was a one man show. So for him giving me an opportunity would have been more of a reason for me to have some loyalty, but me being from the street is the reason why I would never snitch on a n#### or I would rather handle it in the street than go that way. Plus I was new there and I saw so much opportunity ahead as I didn’t think it was going to be like it was but I saw a bigger picture and me telling and suing people, they would cut me. So I brushed it off, something I never really do in that situation and I have a lot of people look at me funny for it. But I am at a stage in my life where I can tell n***as to chill and let me handle things my way.
AllHipHop.com: What are you working on right now then?
Choke No Joke: My first feature film titled The Last Hustle and I’m producing and directing this film. I began production in Miami in October.
I’m on the upcoming VH1 reality show called White Rapper airing next season. As well as screening my documentary across seas.