Every time a High Focus Records release comes around I struggle to find new words to describe the massive influence they have over, and the fantastic music they contribute to, today’s UK hip hop scene. ‘…So We Ate Them Whole’ is the new record from Jam Baxter, one of the most intricate and descriptive lyricists operating in the game today, and it’s solely produced by the exceptional Chemo. The album features vivid, detailed metaphors in abundance, and Chemo provides consistently hard hitting production, whether it’s on a more hip hop vibe, or on Dead Players esque tracks like the lead single ‘Leash’.
The album starts off with the haunting ‘Wings Cost Extra’, which finds Jammy B weaving intricate bars over minimal keys and jazzy drums. This project instantly seems like a more mature Baxter, with perhaps a more personal approach than his previous work, despite still maintaining the layered and veiled content that is so effective. The aggressive and convincing delivery on ‘Incoming’ is perfectly matched to the spacey, futuristic instrumental. JB’s choice to work with Chemo was definitely a wise one, as the crunchy, boom bap drums are present throughout the album and, blended with his unique, electronic approach, is so well suited to Baxter’s distinctive style.
When ‘Leash’ hit my YouTube screen a couple of weeks ago, it smacked me in the face with such force I don’t think it came off repeat all night. Jam Baxter’s ability to absolutely kill this amped up style of production has always been apparent, but it was on his collaboration album with Dabbla (as Dead Players) that its full potential became so obvious. This track continues the vibe of that album, and it’s another absolute banger. The glitchy, abstract beat found on ‘Everything’ is definitely a standout, and the haunting left-field instrumental backs Baxter’s intelligently placed multisyllabics and intricate flow. This is definitely an example of Jammothy exploring new avenues and styles, but he always keeps the mood consistent, and the partnership with Chemo has definitely resulted in an exceptionally cohesive album.
The importance of the smart and perceptive production that Chemo contributes cannot be understated, and this is as apparent as ever on ‘Vines’. The atmospheric and spacious beat gives Baxter room to deliver his cleverly crafted lyrics, and the use of smartly placed vocal samples only adds to the tense backdrop. The only guest appearance on the album is on ‘Menu’. This track finds Jam Baxter and Dirty Dike trading verses about their appearances on the road, both approaching the track with an inflammatory and cocky perspective, and it’s definitely a highlight. DJ Sammy B-Side laces the track with his signature cuts, and no High Focus album would be complete without an appearance from the resident turntablist.
‘…So We Ate Them Whole’ is a truly dope album, with cohesive production and intricate lyrics from beginning to end. Jam Baxter and Chemo have created a vivid, haunting project, and the unique approach of both MC and producer combines to result in another hard hitting High Focus project. These boys are constantly releasing quality music, and their reign is only just beginning.
By Sam Bennett