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Slidin’ Thru: Brian Puspos

July 23, 2018

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

Brian Puspos is here to prove he can sing, just as well as he can dance. Best known for his role on America’s Best Dance Crew, the Houston native has become one of the world’s most sought-after choreographers. While Brian has worked with the likes of Chris Brown, Marques Houston, and Justin Bieber (to name a few), it’s his music that serves as his next passion project. Read more…

Being of Asian ethnicity has installed in him an unwavering grind mode mentality to chase his dreams and never stop until he’s achieved them. With his most recent release, the Sweet 290 EP, he proves he can deliver soulful, romantic R&B just like the rest of the elites.

For those that don’t know who is Brian Puspos?
I’m a singer and recording artist, but the majority of people know me as a choreographer/dancer for the last 13 years. I like to think of myself as a hyper-creative storyteller.

Where do you fit within the realm of R&B and Hip-Hop?
I went to an all-black grade school. Not to pull the black card, but I didn’t see no color. I grew up listening to Dru Hill, Jagged Edge, New Edition, Jodeci, and I just thought that was the norm. It wasn’t until a lot later that I was like, “Oh damn. I’m really a big R&B head.” But I think in general, Filipinos, R&B is in our blood. We align with that genre a lot.

How has Houston had an impact on your career?
It’s literally a part of me. I try to incorporate Houston in everything I do. Both of my EP’s are basically themed around the city of Houston. 290 is the highway of Houston, and since I wanted to do a bunch of baby-making music, I thought of a hotel room. The suite and the number of the hotel room being 290, so the name has two meanings. Sweet 290 is when I reminisce, I used to take that highway to go see all my boos at night.

Everything is connected. The first EP, Slow Loving and Bangin’, pays homage to one of Houston’s rap’s most remembered lines. In a freestyle, Z-Ro says, “Slow, loud, and bangin’ all in my trunk.” I used that and flipped it for the love side. It’s just in everything I do. It’s just who I am.

And I don’t even mean to do it. The other day I was talking to Benji and he was like, “You know Timothy DeLaGhetto went to New York.” And my Houston friends met up with him or just happened to meet him. I came up in conversation and my friends mentioned that I was from Houston. Tim’s first reaction was, “Oh, I know Brian’s from Houston.” It just made me think like, “Do I really just have it across my forehead like that? Or with everything that I do?” That was pretty interesting.

Can you talk about being Filipino and a minority in music?
It’s crazy because first of all, I think Asian Americans in general are at the bottom of the art totem pole. And already, art is at the bottom of society’s totem pole. I always say this, African Americans, they have to do it better than white people. Asians, we have to do it better than African Americans. And that’s so freaking hard. Especially in this genre, you almost have to be really undeniable. Going forward, I really wanted people to hear no color when they listen to my music or when I sing. There’s two punchlines, when they figure out, “Oh my God, he’s Asian?” or “Oh my God, he’s a dancer?”

I want to be on the front line of pushing and representing people that look like me, and also embracing the culture. Like The Kinjaz, they’re a dance crew. And I think what Kinjaz are doing very well is they’re very much Asian. And they’re just Asian, all in your face, so there’s that side of that battle too. I think we’re all contributing to the frontlines of being accepted in the mainstream and not being looking at as a karate guy or nerd.

It’s funny because now with whatever buzz I’ve created, people are always like, “He’s the Asian Chris Brown!” But if I was deemed anybody, I’d want to be the Asian Usher, just because he’s more aligned with my era. And he doesn’t have a bad rep, or as bad of a rep.

How important is it to come to LA as an up-and-coming artist?
I think it’s really important, but also it’s really hard. Important in terms of the way I’m wired, I like the challenge. Because it’s kind of oversaturated. Everyone wants to be the next star. On top of that, the challenge of… no one listens to R&B anymore. If you think about it, back in the day like in the 90’s, mainstream radio was all R&B. Like Keith Sweat, Dru Hill, Jon B, Joe. You had songs like “Splackavellie” on the radio, or Jagged Edge’s “I Gotta Be.” Even Keith Sweat’s “Nobody.” You don’t hear true R&B anymore. For me, living in LA as I see it, it’s like this big mountain I know I need to climb.

I want the summit. Anywhere else it’s like, “Nah it’s too small.” I want to go for the big guy.
It’s mentally challenging as well, and of course physically. I haven’t put dance on the back burner, so I’m trying to be smart and balance my time between dance and music. Also just being a good boyfriend, friend, son, and brother. That’s really important to me, especially in my particular journey. My best friend Benji lives here and meeting other Filipinos in the music industry with the same plight — and my producer August. It’s pretty cool. We have a little circle. It’s not too big, but we do have plans and we do embrace living in the city.

Can you pinpoint the exact moment when you wanted to do the singing thing?
I feel like being Filipino is a lot of the answer. I always say with my upbringing, I feel like I was born into a Filipino Jackson 5. My parents and siblings were always performing and singing in Hotel galas and things like that. I guess dance just took off first. And now that I feel like I’ve done a lot in dance, the way that I think is, “Okay, what’s next?” I mention being a storyteller earlier. The one thing I want people to remember me by when I leave this earth is: “Oh, that’s Brian. He was a great storyteller.”

I love that, that was actually one of my questions, what do you want your legacy to be?
So if you mix that with the way that I’m wired, I’m always asking myself, “What’s next? How do I get to the next level?” If I’m storytelling through my movement and my dance, I thought the perfect ultimate packaging of storytelling is through dance and song. So that’s what I was married to and I just went full throttle with it. It’s cool because I used to just dance when I was heartbroken. I would choreograph a piece. But now I can have a song about it, and then go through the movement.

What did you do with your first advance?
That’s a funny story because I basically got screwed in my first deal. I didn’t get anything.

88rising?
Yeah. With 88, I was one their first artists, along with Keith Ape, Dumbfoundead, and Josh Pan. And if you noticed, we all left. But I’ll never bite the hand. Even though they owe me a lot of money, I’ll forever be grateful of Sean and what’s he done for me. Because he’s put me in front of a lot of people I never thought I’d be in front of.

So what’d you do with your first check?
I saved it.

That Asian mentality!
Well, I actually suck at saving, but I pretty much invested everything back into my music and videos. Back into the art.

What’s your favorite song to perform?
There’s two. It’s probably ”Insomnia” because I feel that song is really who I am. Also, the song “Backseat,” only because I like the feedback when I sing it. Either they’re really into it or really offended. The first verse is about missing someone: “Do you remember?” [sings] And then the punchline right before the chorus is, “When we’re fucking in the backseat!” And then everyone is like, “Oh shit!”

How’d your parents react?
It was really nerve racking when they came to my show, but I told them. I was like, “Ay mom, just know I’m about to say some crazy shit up there.” When it was happening, they just laughed.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
That’s a hard one because there are so many occasions where I’m taken aback. Like there’s some people that have my exact tattoos. Someone got my signature from somewhere, I guess they took it offline. It’s the ones that I’ve touched. Then there are some crazy ones like, “You want me to sign where?” Or, “Yo man, I’m peeing! What the fuck.”

Who’s the music played artist on your phone?
To be honest, my friends. It’s August and Andrew. I basically listen to people from my era like Usher, only because I use them as practicing my riffs and all that. I also listen to my new stuff. I’m my own worst critic. I know there’s a lot of room to improve so I give myself notes. And then you gotta believe in yourself. You gotta believe in your music. You got to be a fan of your music.

Who’s your dream collab?
Dang, it’s gotta be Chris Brown.

He came out at the El Rey last night with Joyner Lucas.
He’s tweeted my dance videos at least ten times. It’s like, “Alright man! Cool.” I think it’s obtainable. If I want to be not as ambitious, I want to work with Kehlani. I’m even a fan of her artist, Marteen. I’d also like to work with Arin Ray. He wrote on my first EP. But he just fucking blew up. He had a kid and went off the map. It’s funny because we kind of started at the same time, and it’s crazy to see where he’s at and where I’m at.

I’m not trying to compare, but it goes back to you know, my skin color. And it’s so weird to say that too — pulling the skin color card — with a black dude. But to be honest, that’s what it is. I don’t believe my music is subpar. I feel like it’s just as good. But it’s good to have those comparisons sometimes because it makes me work harder.

What advice do you have for an aspiring Brian Puspos?
Live your life everybody! And stop rushing. You’ve got to experience and that’s where you get to pull the good stuff from.

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