An outlier in the landscape of UK rap, Jam Baxter is the scene’s premiere surrealist. Beginning his career as part of foundational hip hop collective Contact Play, the emcee experimented with boom bap, narrating the mucky stories of a misspent adolescence. But following his sophomore solo release on High Focus – The Gruesome Features – he slid further and further away from realism, constructing his own nightmarish visions of a world subsumed by vice and venom. His breakout single, “Brains”, would come to crystallise this emerging style: an allegory about drug use and dissociation, centreing around a shady brain salesman and the degenerates that keep him in business.
Baxter’s third album marked his first collaboration with producer Chemo and the beginning of a prolific partnership. …so we ate them whole pushed the rapper into new sonic territory, Chemo’s choice of eerie samples and icy, industrial beats helping Baxter’s bleak cityscapes bloom. The album won Baxter acclaim from the press (“a genuinely beautiful UK hip-hop record”: THE LINE OF BEST FIT) and connected him with fans outside the high walls of UK hip hop.
As further Chemo-produced albums dropped, Baxter took on collaborations with Rag N Bone Man and Kate Tempest. He fled the UK for the blazing climates of South America, Vietnam, Spain and Mexico – each country giving him a new vantage point from which to view his ashen home city. Baxter last settled in Mexico, having built a web of new foreign collaborators.
In 2019, Baxter began working on his first collection of lyrics and prose, Off Piste. The book, which sold out its several runs, joined the dots between the dreamlike escapades described in his lyrics and their real-life analogues. It ended with “Guilty”, Baxter’s first published work of fiction; a blood-soaked horror set in a hotel swimming pool.
Fetch the Poison, Baxter’s latest full length release, reunites him with Chemo (now under the moniker Forest DLG) and features appearances from Jack Danz, Dr Zygote, Wundrop (CMPND), Nah Eeto and Midlands electronic stalwart Lenkemz. The album was conceived during a state-wide alcohol ban in Mexico, though despite its sober context, still features unsettling setpieces, twisted through Baxter’s psychedelic lens. Following this new album, the rapper hopes to return to writing, with a sister to Off Piste currently in production.