Jam Baxter – The Gruesome Features (Review)
As a member of the near-legendary rhyme crew Contact Play, Jam Baxter should be a name very much familiar to any Hip Hop head’s with an interest in the UK scene. Alongside Dirty Dike, Ronnie Bosh, Ed Scissortongue and Mr Key, Jambo has forged his own path through the underground, making up his own boundaries and forming his own distinct style of irreverent rhymes and wordplay. Back in 2010, he released his debut solo LP, the double disc epic “Rinse Out Friday/Spack Out Monday” to wide critical acclaim. Since then, he and Dike have toured extensively around the country and seemingly put out material on a non-stop basis.
Featuring heavily as a member of Fliptrix’s High Focus Records, Jam has toured with the mighty Four Owls and penned guest verses on most of the label’s releases since its inception. In the meantime, he’s been making tracks with some of his favorite MC’s literally whenever time has allowed. The result is this CD, it’s NOT an Album, as Jam himself points out in the liner notes “This little shit slyly built itself up over the last year while I wasn’t looking. My plan was to plug a gap between Album’s by making a few tunes with a few talented individuals without having to worry about an end product.”.
What we end up with is a Ronseal LP, it literally does exactly what it say’s on the tin; Fourteen tracks done with some of the nicest MC’s in the UK scene with a massive variation of production from the likes of Pete Cannon, Ben 9mm, Kerem Fraiche and GhostTown.
We kick off with “Brains” one of only 3 solo tracks on the CD. A heady piano-loop-laden laid back beat crafted by Illinformed, with Jam spitting observations on the denizens of your average inner city and just what goes on in their twisted little heads.
“Off to clock the shrunken brains that punctuate the squalor yonder/Shotters on the underpasses passing rocks in rotten Poplar”
Jam Baxter – Brains
As expected, all the members of Contact Play feature on this CD, with Dirty Dike showing up on one of the best tracks on this project “Filet Mignon”, this is purest vitriol verses aimed at the “anyone can be an MC” vibe and those that embody it. “Altitude Sickness” with Ronnie Bosh is a literally spaced out beast with some startling production from Ben 9mm.
Also featuring heavily on Gruesome Features are Jam’s fellow High Focus alumni, with three of the Four Owl’s popping up at various points. In particular “Who” with Leaf Dog is a seriously good track, with intricate storytelling verses from both Jam and Leaf detailing the struggles of an average wrong’un in a drug deal gone very bad indeed. “Eggs” featuring Dabbla from the legendary LDZ crew kind of acts as a prelude to the upcoming “Dead Players” project that he, Jam and Producer GhostTown are putting together. With a beat by Philly B, this is a classic that has both MC’s switching from regular into double time and back again with consummate ease.
It’s obvious that Jam prides himself on his reverence for the best MC’s that this country has produced, that’s made obvious by the fact that only one MC features on two track’s on this project; the iconic Chester P. Both “Fine” and “Tin Of Worms” feature the same creative team of Jam, Chester and Beat Crafter extraordinaire GhostTown. Chester has always been known as one of the more complex rhymer’s of the scene and this rings true on both of these tracks, whats most impressive is that Jam doesn’t feel out of place whatsoever and the two MCs compliment each other’s style and flow perfectly. Which results in the two best track’s on The Gruesome Features.
All in all, although it heads in a wide variety of directions, this is an LP is full of quality. As previously stated by the man himself, this is not an Album but a compilation, so there’s no overall narrative structure to the project. Despite this, Jam Baxter and High Focus have given us yet another classic display of why they are one of the leading exponents of a creatively diverse and hugely talented Hip Hop scene in the UK. It’s something that all the UK heads out there should be massively proud of and celebrating. So go cop this CD and get yourself along to one of High Focus’ awesome live events which usually feature the majority of their roster of dope-as-all-hell MC’s and Producers.