The rapper sits down for the My Spilt Milk podcast on the eve of the release of "The Focus Tape."

Cover image for "The Focus Tape" by Dee-1

Dee-1 has a lot to say. When a helicopter flies low over the Magazine Street PJ's while we're talking, he doesn't wait for it to pass. He talks louder. He's not letting a moment slip by underused.

I shy away from using "positivity" to describe him because it doesn't seem quite right, and because it makes Dee-1 sound good for you - and that's the kiss of death for everything from healthy foods to quality television. Dee-1's positive in the sense that he's not negative. In a time when feeling persecuted and defensive is so the rage that Christians and wealthy white men claim victim status, Dee-1's not defined by the grinding physical and emotional landscape around him. He still wants to overcome, but he frames his challenges to a human scale.

Normally, musicians who are conscious of themselves as a brand make me nervous, and in today's My Spilt Milk podcast, you can hear Dee in hype mode at times, working in song titles and the name of his new mixtape, The Focus Tape. When the conversation gets a little far afield, he pulls it back to why he's here and brings it back to hip-hop. But his efforts to sell don't stunt the conversation, nor has the real guy become a caricature of himself as he enters the world of marketing, His brand is more than just "positive guy;" it's "guy working to make things better, starting with himself" - not quite the same thing, and someone more interesting.

His new mixtape, The Focus Tape, is downloadable now, and it's hosted by Mannie Fresh. Dee-1 will celebrate the new mixtape with a performance tonight at The Republic. It will be his last performance in New Orleans for a while as he leaves the next day for a two-month tour with Macklemore.