By all rights, 3582 should be a veritable underground hip-hop supergroup. Between the two members, they represent one of the most consistent bodies of work in hip-hop, and also some of the most slept-on. The group consists of MC Fat Jon and producer J. Rawls (their moniker is derived from their beeper codes). Fat Jon has released three solo albums as Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician, handling production duties on those releases. He is also a member of Five Deez, appearing behind both the boards and the mic. J. Rawls, who teams up with J. Sands in their group Lone Catalysts, is perhaps best known for producing the beat to Black Star's "Brown Skin Lady"; he has also worked with Five Deez, as well as releasing his own acclaimed solo project The Essence of J. Rawls.
Together the two share a similar aesthetic of tightly produced, soulful hip-hop tracks and everyday narratives. Situational Ethics is the follow-up to their quietly released 2002 album, The Living Soul, and is posited as an exploration of everyday social situations and the ways they can be dealt with, whether in a positive or negative fashion.
Fat Jon provides the understated but authoritative narrative delivery, allowing his smooth cadence to drape over Rawls' beats. As laid-back as he sounds, he still manages to insert nuance into his flow, according to the subject matter. On "Bad As They Come" he takes on the persona of a self-declared heartbreaker, detailing his exploits: "I'll chew your feelings up and spit them out for fun and it's thrilling me that you are still feeling me… Watch
me betray your trust, it's not love, it's lust." And: "I'm feeling you the way you are feeling me but not as much," he deadpans.
At the other end of the spectrum, on "The E," an ode to Internet romance, he details the development of a relationship via email, maintaining the cyber theme throughout with his metaphors: "God forbid a hard drive crash and we overreact." "I Would Change" is a wistful musing on the difficulties of maintaining a relationship when making music and having touring as the number one priority: "You don't know how it feels when I'm away/ Sometimes I miss you so much that I don't even know what else to say…/ Hoping that you sleeping tight and eating right." His verses reveal a thoughtful and observant personality with an eye for the details of human interactions.
Whereas much hip-hop these days is constructed in a mix-'n'-match fashion, with MCs selecting tracks from producers without necessarily ever meeting or working directly with them, 3582 demonstrates the tangible difference it makes when beats and rhymes are constructed hand in hand. The two sculpt their respective parts in tandem so lyrical content is mirrored musically. For example, Rawls uses orchestral-sounding strings to enhance the romantic theme of "The E," but subdues them to match Fat Jon's cautious tone. Overall, J. Rawls lays down crisp snares that keep the head nodding, and underpins them with rich basslines and a variety of melodic hooks that demonstrate a love of soul and jazz.
Part of the accomplishment of this release is that, unlike many of their hip-hop
counterparts, 3582 know when enough is enough. Situational Ethics is more
of a healthy-sized EP than a full album and works well as such. Beats and rhymes
are perfectly matched; they both demand and reward you for paying attention.
There's a couple of short interludes, but other than that, no filler, just a
solid collection of well thought-out and executed tracks that leaves you not
only with an appetite whetted for their next outing, but with a desire
down and revisit their previous releases, as 3582 and in their other guises.