An Interview with Jeff Pliskin of Raised Fist Propaganda
Jeff Pliskin grew in NYC as a skateboarder and avid fan of punk, reggae, and hip-hop music. It was this love for the scene that inspired him to create Raised Fist Propaganda. The concept was to promote a lifestyle and provide a lense into an emerging subculture, providing viewers an opportunity to experience something real and raw as it was happening.
While Jeff isn’t a fan of the term “Alt-Journalist”, he’s provided coverage of major musicians, political figures, and even cultural movements such as Slightly Stoopid, Wu-Tang Clan, Bernie Sanders, Zoo York, and Occupy Wall Street – many times before they even broke into mainstream, pop-culture consciousness.
One of the things we admire most about Jeff is that not only is he an artist, but he teaches the arts by day in Brooklyn, NY.
Reggae Rise Up recently linked up with Jeff and asked him a few questions…
Q: Raised First Propaganda is an established name within a variety of genres, namely Reggae, Punk, and Hip-Hop. Talk to us about the crossover you see between the different scenes and your thoughts on the manner in which festivals like Reggae Rise Up are branching out and mixing things up with their lineups.
A: Music in itself inspires people in many different formats and scenes. Music creates a “vibe” that can motivate humans and even bring someone out of a negative state, as most authentic reggae music does. Growing up as a teenager in the mid to late 90’s – New York Hardcore & Punk was my scene. I lived for those punk and hardcore shows in NYC because it gave me a release for the angst and anger I had built up inside of me. The lead singers on stage always had a moral point to talk about between songs. I admired that. With that said, it wasn’t a surprise that most of the New York Hardcore kids were into Hip-Hop. After all, real hip-hop like Public Enemy and KRS-One preached change, with a hope that a better way of life and interaction between people would come. These two dudes, Miguel and Bradley from Long Beach, California, caught on to that and mixed that style with some Jamaican reggae beats – and a new musical genre was born. I also gotta give props to Tim Armstrong and Rancid for paying homage to the old school 60’s ska. It’s only natural that decades later the new generations play music that essentially connects the dots with so many styles.
Q: Your photojournalism extends far beyond just music and living in New York you’ve covered major events such as the Occupy Wall Street Movement and Bernie Sander’s campaign rallies (among many others we’re sure). What role do you feel artists such as yourself have to play in the cultural conversations happening right now?
A: I can only speak for myself here, and say my role is to simply “document” to the best of my ability. The photographer is pretty much creating a visual journal of sorts. My photos aren’t technically the best. But I strive to take pics most concert photographers can’t get. Interactions, private conversations, and family bonding moments you don’t see on the stage at a festival or summer tour.
Q: Who/what have been the top 10 artists/activists/events that you’ve had the opportunity to cover and/or work with?
A: My top memorable moments…
1. HR of the Bad Brains writing me a $50 check for breakfast after he stayed with us for the weekend in NY.
2. Beastie Boy Ad-Rock after bringing together hundreds of people at an Anti-Hate Rally in a public park in Brooklyn.
3. Slightly Stoopid and Cypress Hill bonding backstage and giving each other high-fives in Boston in 2010 after watching each other’s sets — that’s some shit that hardcore bands do — respectful.
4. Angelo Moore of Fishbone — creating a 20-minute independent film with him after 5 years of filming across the country with the basic theme of positivity as the story backdrop.
5. Meeting C$ and Kyle from Slightly Stoopid on a random Ocean Beach day in 2009. One photo turned into almost a decade of friendship and brotherhood.
6. Walking into the wrong room at Rock The Bells Hip-Hop Festival in NYC to see that I’m surrounded by the Wu-Tang Clan (football huddle style) – I took one photo and RZA took the camera out of my hands.
7. Teaching 50 Cent how to take a picture (I have photo evidence). HA!
8. NOFX. Melvin is the shit.
9. Getting Stephen Marley to pose with Slightly Stoopid for a group photo in Boise, Idaho.
10. Bernie Sanders at Washington Square Park with Rosario Dawson & Spike Lee. Big thanks to Bernie’s Head Staffer (Robert V) who interviewed me at Miss Lily’s Jamaican spot for the position. (I think he hired me after I bought him a Red Stripe)
11. 4 years ago, my friend Kelly hit me up about a band that needed a place to crash after their reggae show. The singer and the drummer stayed on the couch in my living room. The bongo player somehow showed up sleeping underneath my dining room table. Hilarious! I pulled out my camera and put these dudes to work. We filmed a music video on the boardwalk in my city, Long Beach, NY. A few years later, Fortunate Youth is #1 on the reggae charts. That first hang session was another bonding moment. I often compare those dudes to Stoopid – same loyalty, the same respect. That kinda stuff goes a long way – especially in this industry.
Q: We’ve seen you making a lot of moves in the past year since Reggae Rise Up Florida 2016. Can you share a little bit about your upcoming projects and collaborations?
A: Raised Fist has branched out in a number of ways. In 2006, the clothing division was launched locally in NY. We started the skateboard division in 2010 at the Etnies showroom with Jeru The Damaja blessing us on the mic. Photo & video has always been a part of the RFP lifestyle – filming every type of musical artist and providing award-winning music videos for MTV2, BET, and Palladium Channel. We also decided to start our record division/label. Raised Fist Records is currently working with a number of legendary artists. Our plan is to provide national vinyl distribution as well as the media content needed to push the artist. We have been visually representing for over a decade, so it only made sense to contribute musically, with our favorite performers.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: 2017 is looking to be a great year – as a lot of new projects are coming to fruition, including the Reggae Rise Up Festivals. Blessed to be a part of a great scene and the family that becomes a part of it from all the friends that we meet.
Adam St. Simons is a music industry and marketing professional and the promotions manager and media coordinator for Reggae Rise Up Florida. Follow Adam on Medium for related articles and connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.