Joker the Bailbondsman
Like After the FEDs: Catching Up with Joker the Bailbondsman
Q / Cody Liska
A / Sean Sullivan
Photos / Ryan Earp, Cody Liska
It’s been eight years since Sean Sullivan, aka Joker the Bailbondsman, was caught selling crack to a government informant. The arrest that followed led to three convictions: two counts of distribution of crack cocaine and one count of attempted distribution of crack cocaine. He spent seven and a half years in federal prison.
Sullivan was released from prison last February. Since then, he’s been working on establishing the International Associates Network, a conglomerate with subsidiaries in animation, books, music and alcohol. “I’m about to ink a vodka deal with Alaska Distillery,” Sullivan tells me. “It’s called Black Ice Vodka.” His animation series, Roach and Reefer, debuted back in August of last year. It’s about “two troubled teens who are forced to move to Anchorage in order to stay out of trouble.” But instead of staying out of trouble, the two pop-culture junkies sit around the house all day smoking and selling weed. It’s basically a hip-hop version of Beavis and Butthead. “I put [the first episode] out so I can look at the feedback and interact with people and kind of figure out what needs to be tweaked,” Sullivan says. “I got a bunch of new characters. I got myself animated, so I’m gonna be on there.”
At 38, Sullivan is more Sean the Businessman than he is Joker the Bailbondsman. “I’d say I’m a businessman more so than I am an artist,” Sullivan tells me. “I hate to admit it –this is probably the first time I’ve admitted that – but I am. Music for me now is like going to the gym and shooting hoop. My knees aren’t as good as they used to be.” But people still remember The Bailbondsman. They remember the magazine articles and the music videos on BET: Uncut. Roscoe of Roscoe’s Catfish and Barbeque has a wall of photos of celebrities he’s served. Among the celebrities are pictures of Chris Rock, Danny Glover, Snoop Dogg, BB King, Cedric the Entertainer, Mario Chalmers and Rosa Parks, who came up here for the anniversary of her bus tour. A photo of Sullivan also hangs on the wall. “And who’s this?” Roscoe points to the photo of Sullivan and then to the man himself.
Here's what Sullivan has to say:
You’ve been talking about reinventing yourself.
The whole music scene completely transformed since I was incarcerated. Our grind back then was old school, hand-to-hand. We actually had to travel to meet fans. Now, I’m having to reinvent myself online. When I first got out [of prison], I found myself going into the studio and trying to emulate other artists – the sound that’s going on in the mainstream – but I quickly realized that I needed to find a balance, tailor my style. I don’t want to be a dinosaur, sounding like the Sugar Hill Gang (laughs). If you want to be relevant, you gotta move to what’s going on.
I’m not to that point where I’m gonna make garbage music, but I wanna start paying bills. I wanna be able to say, “here, mom, here’s a house.” Or go to the car lot and buy something off this music instead of it just being a hobby. You have to realize that I’ve been doing this since first grade. Don’t get me wrong, I love [hip-hop]. I’m in it for the passion, but damn… I wanna buy something (laughs). You know what I’m sayin’? Lemme pay a phone bill or something.
Where do you work?
Alaska Club, Fred Meyer and Brother Francis Shelter.
Why Brother Francis Shelter? Is it just because it’s a job and you had a connection?
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play a part in it, but I like to see what the bottom looks like sometimes, man. Not to say I wanna be there. It’s just humbling.
Awhile back, you told me that while you were in prison you wrote a number of screenplays. Have you started developing any?
Man, I’m gonna be honest with you, I’ve been working three jobs. I’ve been working like a Hebrew slave. It’s been a real challenge for me to find a balance. I’m mentally and physically exhausted. When I was in prison, I knew I was gonna have to beat myself into shape mentally, that I was gonna have to build up callouses so I wouldn’t be influenced by the street life – wanting to sell drugs, wanting to smoke weed.
That whole life is just not appealing to me anymore. Like, I walked into the strip club not too long ago and I just felt disgusting. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful women. I just felt like I could’ve been doing something more productive. Like, “what the hell am I doing? I could be at home working on a business plan. I can’t afford to make it rain, so I’m not in here trying to put on a show or anything.” It was weird because I used to love that shit.
You were at the 2015 BET Awards. How’d that happen?
When I got out [of prison], I wanted to be apart of the [BET] cypher. I’m pretty good at cold calls, so I was just asking around and someone told me about this one lady who’s from Alaska who helps facilitate the whole BET Awards. I reached out to her and she hooked it up.
I saw you took a bunch of photos. One with Snoop Dogg, DJ Khaled…
I just ran up to people [and took photos]. I don’t care. I got no shame. Snoop was up on stage and I ran up there – that was during rehearsal though.
What did they think?
I think they probably thought I was already somebody because where I was at wasn’t necessarily accessible to everybody. Some of them are kind of finicky. Like, I saw P Diddy and I tried to walk up on him and he hit me with a cold stiff arm. Out of everybody I asked to take a picture with, the only ones that didn’t take a picture with me was Diddy and Rich Homie Quan – he was bougie.
The last time you did an interview with the Press, it didn’t go well.
Nah, it didn’t. I have a bad history with the Press. The two articles they did on me were both by Dave [Holthouse]. A lot of the things he said [in those two articles] were false. This is my only issue: if we’re going to do a story and we’re gonna hang out and kick it in the vibe, when you write that story, I expect for you to be that same person that you were when we did that interview.
It’s crazy because I’ve been seeing him a lot lately at the Alaska Club. When I see him – he doesn’t recognize me – I just sit there and look at him like, “I really wanna knock your ass clean the fuck out.” But I’m a lot older and more mature now.
In his article, he said he dressed like a cop. (Original article found HERE)
And that’s what bothers me. [At the time], I’m doing everything under the sun I’m not supposed to be doing. If you came to my spot dressed like a cop, you’re not getting in. And then he said I said, “if you print this, I’m gonna bust a cap in your ass.” I don’t even talk like that. I do a lot of mirroring. So, if we’re vibing and we’re kickin’ it, then you’re gonna get the same energy from me.
I wasn’t doing a lot of interviews back then. So I’m like, “damn, are all journalists like this?” [Dave] said all this [negative] stuff in his articles when, in reality, he had a blast. We were sitting back, smoking weed, listening to beats, laughing. There was never anything along the lines of confrontation. Yea, you come to my house back then, I was a drug dealer, you might see a pistol sitting on the table. But I wasn’t a felon [back then], so my firearm was like a hundred percent legit – I walked into the store and I bought it.
Then in his second article, he was sending mixed messages – ‘Joker was an informant. He was snitching. He was working with the police.’ Then there’d be a quote where the prosecutor at my sentencing hearing says, “Sean had plenty of chances to work with us, but he cared more about his friends than he did being in the streets.” And I came home and I’m good. There’s nobody that can say I told on them. I can go anywhere in any state I want to. I can go up to anybody. One thing about being in the FEDs is when you start off in medium [security] like where I was and there’s some speculation [about being an informant], they’re gonna call back home, “hey, who did Sean tell on because if he did, we need to put him on blast right now.” The reality is, I never told on nobody, never set nobody up, never wore no wires. Here I am, 9 years later – if I told on somebody, it wouldn’t be a secret.
Earlier, you said that you were young and maybe you were acting a little arrogant in that interview.
That is a possibility. But that was just my demeanor back when I was young. But I know that I never displayed that arrogance towards him. It was toward my environment. The studio was my place of refuge, it was my home court, I could let my hair down and be myself. I was playing with guns. I was always high. But when he came to our environment, he meshed well and had fun with us and kicked it with us like everything was cool.
Did you actually think he showed up to my house dressed like a cop?
Yea. I had no reason to think otherwise. Who would make that up?
(Laughs) Listen, I’m not the most smartest person, but if you show up to my house dressed like that, you’re not getting in.
(Laughs) Okay. Getting back to your business goals, are you where you envisioned you would be at this point?
Bro, I’m ahead of schedule. I sat on my bunk in prison and visualized it. I went over it a million times in my head. Everything. All the way through. I refuse to take “no” for an answer. I refuse to fail.
This article originally appeared in the May 19 - 25, 2016 issue of the Anchorage Press.