Updated: Jun 9
By Anton Bandano
On April 18, 2020 the band known as Corn Puffians, a revolutionary Toronto-based outfit that introduced the concept of the “Post-Cover” to the world, disbanded.
This tale has been told numerous times (see this article for more detail) and I am not going to retell it here once more. Instead, this article will explore the life post-Corn Puffians of the band’s creative visionary, Joey Litvak.
Litvak has emerged from the wreckage of the Puffians to reintroduce his rap persona Jo Fre$h to the world, a genre-bending artist last seen in the 2015 documentary, Jo Fre$h: The Fre$hest Story Eva Told. The Fre$hest Story Eva Told told the story of Jo Fre$h, a fledgling Jewish rapper from T-Hill, also known as the Toronto suburb Thornhill, attempting to make it in the hip-hop game. Unfortunately, his debut album The Fre$hest Story Eva Told only sold one copy, bought by his then-girlfriend Lil' G with his own credit card. Following this disappointment and the additional heartbreak of Lil' G’s departure from his arms into those of a (here unnamed) world renowned rapper, Jo Fre$h entered an indefinite hiatus. But now the elusive artist has returned to astonish the world. Where did he come from? Where did he go? These are just two of a few of the hard hitting questions we discussed.
To begin, I asked Jo Fre$h to explain his background, where he grew up, etc. His response was the following:
“Let me break it down for you: My name is Jo Fre$h/ I’m on the mic/ My beats are so fre$h/ I’m outta sight/ I like to rap/ I like to rhyme/ my beats are so fre$h/ like Jo Fre$h/ Word.”
Moving on, I probed a little deeper and managed to uncover the history of Jo Fre$h. Initially, Litvak grew up “in the 6ix by Downsview Station'' and later moved to the “West-side” of Thornhill.
As a child, his father would play rap in the car, like the Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., and Eminem. This early exposure to hip-hop, alongside other notable influences such as Dr. Dre’s 2001, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides, and Kanye West's Yeezus planted the seed of his rap ambitions.
In late 2014, Litvak became Jo Fre$h with his fascinating story captured on film in The Fre$hest Story Eva Told.
Afterwards, Litvak retired from the Fre$h lifestyle (but still kept a rap-career close to his heart) and moved out of his parent’s house to study the sociology of hip-hop at the University of Toronto with Professor Jooyoung Lee.
As Fre$h explained, if he wanted to “be the freshest rapper out there, [he had to] understand the ins and outs of not only the industry itself but the sociological aspects of rap and hip-hop.”
Fre$h did have a slight revival in 2016 with a Wu-Tang Clan cover band called, unsurprisingly, Wu-Tang Band. Wu-Tang Band consisted of Fre$h as the RZA, GZA, and Ol' Dirty Bastard, Z-Money as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, and Leon ‘Turtle’ Sami as Method Man, Inspechtah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa.
They signed to Toronto-based Corn Puff Records during its first iteration (it has since relaunched this year as an avant-garde label) but unfortunately there “was some miscommunication” between label exec Joe Alexander and the band leading to their eventual disassembly. Fre$h would not elaborate on the direct cause of the breakup, but simply said “I may have said some things I shouldn’t have said.” Unfortunately, Fre$h made it clear that “the Wu-Tang Band tracks will never leak.”
After this brief re-emergence, Jo Fre$h returned to hibernation while Litvak pursued other musical projects. He started the Post-Coverband Corn Puffians with Noa Bonen and Maia Harris in early 2020.
The odyssey of the band came to a tumultuous conclusion following the much-publicized argument between Bonen and Litvak on April 18 and the eventual removal of Bonen from the group. According to Litvak, “Noa had a disrespect for the art.” Litvak felt that Bonen was not fully committed to the Post-Cover concept (reworking existing songs into original creations) and did not share Litvak’s goal to change the music industry. Upon reflection, Litvak said he “could’ve been a little nicer to” Bonen but he explained “that’s not what Jo Fre$h do [sic].” The departure of Bonen inspired Litvak to re-release the only Corn Puffians single, a cover of the Born Ruffians’ “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life”, without Bonen’s voice.
The resulting track featuring solely Litvak’s vocals is ‘interesting’ to say the least. However, the day before Litvak's release, Bonen released an original solo single of her own which left Litvak with “hurt feelings” and the impression that he now had “a hit on his back”.
For the record, Bonen’s track makes no mention whatsoever of Litvak, the Corn Puffians, or the breakup. Naturally, Litvak saw this as “the perfect time for [his] comeback as Jo Fre$h” to spite Bonen and compete with her as a solo artist.
Litvak explained, Jo Fre$h returned “in the motha fuckin’ flesh because [he’s] ready to take shots at everybody” and get back at all of those who crossed him. As a result, on May 15, he released a diss track attacking all of his ‘haters’ from Bonen to former best-friend Harry Myles who "betrayed" Litvak and wrote an unflattering story on the Puffians breakup.
“Diss Track Will Ruin/Save Your Life” continued Litvak’s beloved "Post-Cover" idea by sampling Litvak’s own guitar riff from the Puffians’ cover of “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life”. While Fre$h is the primary wordsmith of the track, he is joined by a surprise feature: his “long-lost brother from another mother” Baby I¢e-T formerly known as Lil' Ryan. Litvak first reunited with his childhood friend Lil' Ryan in The Fre$hest Story Eva Told, but lost contact with him after the film. However, after seeing Litvak’s Corn Puffians work, Lil' Ryan contacted Fre$h and came back into his life under a new name: Baby I¢e-T.
In addition to this feature, Fre$h also has a new production partner on “Diss Track”. Jean Gerome is an Israeli producer currently residing in Toronto that Fre$h found on Craigslist. Gerome is Fre$h’s “Rick Rubin” and his new go-to following his falling out with the Puffians producer, Pyari. As Fre$h told it, “Pyari was all mad at me 'cause I was after him all the time to help me with my music [...and] he thought our friendship was taking a back seat.” But now Fre$h has Jean Gerome so the drama with Pyari “don’t matter [sic]” anymore. Given that three close friends, Bonen, Myles, and Pyari, left Fre$h’s life in quick succession, I asked if perhaps there was a common link between all of these strained relationships. Fre$h was unsure, claiming “people are dissing me left and right” but he doesn’t know what he did. To Fre$h, he’s just “living [his] truth [and] speaking [his] words” and if people can’t handle that then it’s on them.
Corn Puffians was signed to the Toronto record label Corn Puff Records and Litvak was a talent scout and social media manager for the company.
However, he has since distanced himself from the outfit and launched his own label called Post-Cover Recordings with a logo quite similar to Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Recordings (Fre$h claimed it is a “Post-Cover” logo).
The departure from Corn Puff Records came after the label promoted Prodücer D.J. Salingér’s latest track “Duck & Cover” on May 8, rather than Litvak’s reworked version of “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life”.
Fre$h thought he was going to be “the only cat releasing a track that day” and received no word that another artist would be competing with him.
Then, adding insult to injury, Corn Puff Records named “Duck & Cover” “Best New Track” on May 15 and promoted a new short film starring Bonen by Title Text Here Productions, while ignoring Fre$h’s new “Diss Track”.
Now, Fre$h has ‘beef’ with Salingér and compares their rivalry to the Biggie vs. Tupac feud. Salingér is currently residing in Toronto but is originally from Montreal, adding fuel to the fire. To Fre$h, Salingér is “stepping on his turf” and contributing to the endless Toronto vs. Montreal debate. When recounting Corn Puff Records’ promotion of Salingér, Litvak became quite upset and exclaimed “there wouldn’t be a Corn Puff Records without me, without Wu-Tang Band and Corn Puffians. You gotta pay attention to Jo Fre$h because I’m back in the motha fuckin' flesh!” The spotlight, according to Fre$h, should always be on him.
With Post-Cover Recordings, Fre$h hopes to represent Post-Cover music more completely. The label is “a space for [his] vision to come to full fruition” now that he’s “freed [himself] from the shackles of the capitalist pigs of Corn Puff Records.”
Right now, the label will be a vehicle for Fre$h’s work but he is in talks to release a Post-Cover collaboration with Feurd and Frankie of the Elwins called Tears for Deers, a Tears for Fears cover band remaking songs to be about Bambi.
Depending on how the diss track charts, Fre$h hopes to take his career to “the next level” with a tour, potentially opening for Run the Jewels.
Jo Fre$h is a unique personality, to say the least. You have to give credit to Litvak’s endless ambition, first fronting an indie cover band then transitioning to hip-hop and starting his own label all in a matter of months. Whether his “Post-Cover” concept will catch-on has yet to be determined, but it seems like Litvak will continue to push it until he’s exhausted every genre.
Perhaps this time next year we’ll be seeing Jo Fre$h on a co-headlining tour with Killer Mike and El-P. And maybe we won’t. But, in a world currently locked down due to a global pandemic, it seems like anything is possible.
For the remainder of the interview, I asked a series of hypothetical opinion questions. Below is the direct transcript of Jo Fre$h’s answers. I didn’t think I could do justice to his words by paraphrasing.
Anton Bandano: Who would be your dream collaborator?
Jo Fre$h: I don’t need to have a dream collaborator cause I’m working with my dream collaborators, Jean Gerome and Lil' Ryan AKA Baby I¢e-T.
AB: Because of your recent feud with Prodücer D.J. Salingér, I wanted to hit you with some quick questions on famous feuds in hip-hop. Who are you a bigger fan of? Biggie or TuPac?
JF: Biggie, all the way.
AB: Kanye vs Jay-Z?
JF: Kanye, man. Gotta go with Kanye.
AB: Vanilla Ice vs Queen?
JF: Oh gotta go with the Ice-Ice Baby, baby.
AB: Kanye vs. Taylor Swift?
JF: Kanye vs. Hillary Swift?
AB: Taylor Swift.
JF: Yo, you think I’m gonna side with Taylor Swift on that whole thing? Come on man. You saw what Kim put out. You know Taylor’s bull shitin' that whole thing.
AB: How do you feel about what Kanye did to Taylor in 2010?
JF: Yo, you ask me Beyoncé deserved that award. What Kanye did may be a little disrespectful but in the end, he showed mad respect.
AB: No love for Taylor Swift then?
JF: No love for T-Swizzle.
AB: Now, in general who do you prefer, Beastie Boys or Lonely Island?
JF: Oh Beastie Boys all the way. Lonely Island takes their jokes too seriously. Beastie Boys, they’re all fun and games. They’re always having fun. Lonely Island, you can tell, it’s all about the jokes for them, it’s not about the rap, it’s not about the game.
AB: Pre-Gospel Kanye or Gospel Kanye?
AB: So you’re not a fan of his most recent stuff?
JF: I don’t know why he’s gotta be closed on a Sunday. Why deprive us, Kanye?
AB: Run-DMC or Aerosmith?
JF: Yo, Run-DMC baby. I hate Aerosmith. I can’t stand Aerosmith. I listened to “Walk This Way” and skipped right through Steven Tyler.
AB: It’s interesting you feel that way about the collaboration between rock and hip hop given that your diss track is taking samples from a rock song by the Born Ruffians.
JF: That’s right, but it ain’t no Aerosmith, man. Fuck Aerosmith.
AB: Eminem or the other famous white rapper Ed Sheeran.
JF: Ed Sheeran’s a rapper? When’d that happen? Maybe I should give it a chance. But I gotta go with...who’d you say?
AB: Eminem or Ed Sheeran?
JF: Man, Eminem stole my girl so I don’t know what to say. Gotta go with Eminem. Musically, Eminem.
AB: Have you ever confronted Eminem about what he did to you?
JF: Naw, B. I’ve tried to get in contact with him but it’s pretty difficult. Turns out, harder than you’d think. I even went to Detroit. Couldn’t find him. Went to 8 Mile to try and find him and Lil' G.
AB: Does he still live on 8 Mile?
JF: Naw, that’s what I found out when I got there.
AB: Next up, who would win Dr. Dre vs Ice Cube?
JF: Gotta go with my man Ice Cube.
AB: Lauryn Hill vs a clock?
JF: Clock like the time? Yooo, cause she’s always late to concerts? That’s real [sic] funny. Gotta go with the clock.
AB: Who do you think is the best member of the Wu-Tang Clan?
JF: That’s tough. I’m torn between Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the RZA.
AB: Who’s the best member of the Wu-Tang Band?
JF: Jo Fre$h, baby. You know me.
AB: Who do you most compare yourself to in the Wu-Tang Clan?
JF: Guess I gotta compare myself to the RZA.
AB: Who’s your favourite member of the Beastie Boys?
JF: Yo, gotta be MCA. The frontman, he did everything if you ask me.
AB: If the Beastie Boys are fighting for their right to party, what are you fighting for?
JF: Hm. Now, that’s a good question. If the Beastie Boys are fighting for their right to party, then Jo Fre$h is fighting for his right to post-cover. Singing in the style of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party!) “You gotta fight for your right to pooooost-cover.”
AB: Sounds just like the original. Now during the time of COVID-19, do you think the Beastie Boys were right and it’s time to get ill?
JF: Yo. As long as you got a license, I think it’s always time to get ill.
AB: Do you think TuPac is still alive?
JF: Let me think about this. Yes.
AB: Why? JF: Just my gut.
AB: What about Biggie?
JF: Biggie? Naww. Too bad.
AB: Where do you think TuPac is hiding, if he’s still alive?
JF: Uh, hanging out in those islands.
AB: Those islands?
JF: Yeah, I read somewhere one time that he was living in those islands.
AB: Thank you for joining me today and stay healthy.
JF: Yeah, you too man. Take it easy.