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 MC experimented with boom bap; narrating the mucky stories of a misspent adolescence. However, 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, centred around a shady brain salesman and the degenerates keeping him in business.
Baxter’s third album …So We AteThem Whole marked his first collaboration with producer Chemo and the beginning of a prolific partnership that would push the rapper into new sonic territory, with Chemo’s choice of eerie samples and icy, industrial beats helping Baxter’s bleak cityscapes bloom. The album was well received by the press, touted as "a genuinely beautiful UK hip-hop record" that also was successful in connecting 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 with the likes of Brazil’s NOG, Black Alien and Xamã.
In 2018, 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) with appearances from Jack Danz, Dr Zygote, Wundrop (CMPMD) and Midlands' electronic stalwart Lenkemz — in addition to features with Blah Records' Nah Eeto & Black Josh, as well as DJ Sammy B-Side and Jehst. The album was conceived during a state-wide alcohol ban in Mexico, though despite its sober context, still features unsettling set-pieces, 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.