"There's no division," Sutton insists. "I'm down with gangstas because gangstas are my brothers and sisters. What people see is thugs and criminals. Those are my peeps. I don't have any place judging them or anything they do. I'd rather hear somebody talking about the rich fools sitting out making money off of them and our families than hearing people talk about thugs."
Sutton does all this and more on Necks Move, on which he takes lyrical aim at any number of hot-button issues, including the negative ramifications of mass media, militaries gone amok, global capitalism and the war on drugs. Though Sutton often tempers his diatribes with positive messages and uplift, it's no surprise that he considers those in power among the most dangerous of world citizens.
"The thug's Bush, the thug's the police and the Army," Sutton says. "Not the soldiers. I can't blame the soldiers -- they're also our brothers and sisters. They're in a situation where they think they're doing something to benefit, so they get in the shit. It's about the rich people. They're the thugs."
Hip-hoppers with socially conscious worldviews are often inspired by shifting political tides, pushing the musicmakers to dizzying heights of geopolitical criticism. Public Enemy, Paris and the Coup have made careers of this sort of thing, but Sutton says the Thinkers are simply addressing timeless issues.
"I want to know when the political climate has ever changed," the rapper says. "It ain't changed for my great-grandfather. It ain't changed for me. What I'm talking about is shit that's been going down forever -- it just manifests itself in a different way. It may have changed for some people, for rich people, but for the people I'm talking about, shit ain't changed."
Deep Thinkers' fortunes have been on an upward slope in recent months, though. Building on the splash created by its stellar self-issued debut, Outlook, the group inked a deal with Datura Records, a Lawrence-based label co-owned by highly lauded rapper Approach. Given that Datura recently allied itself with Coup d'Etat, an underground imprint with a worldwide reach, the Thinkers have high hopes for Necks Move.
"We're really trying to put this one out there," Sutton explains. "We're putting the effort in. We got Datura and stuff. The other projects -- not that we put anything less into it -- [but] we didn't really have the means to get them out on a broad scale."
With its emphasis on lyrical skills and high-concept production wizardry, Necks Move may just do the trick. Though the album features prominent guest appearances from local luminaries such as Mac Lethal and SoundsGood, the real star of the show is Kyle Dykes, aka Leonard Dstroy, the duo's other half and the man who crafts the Thinkers' complex soundscapes. Juxtaposing obscure and easily recognized samples with a flurry of strident beats and technicolor instrumental loops, Dykes has concocted a compelling work of sonic art.
"With the music, it definitely sounds a lot more structured at some points," Dykes says. "It sounds a little bit more mature. It's not as experimental and free, but at times it is. It's a step above the other one. In terms of subject matter, I think Aaron's definitely on point on this one. There's no filler. We're hitting stuff that needs to be addressed."