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No matter what you do in life," declares Brandon Bordeaux, better known musically as H*Wood, "you're going to trip, you're going to fall, you're going to make errors. But in the grand scheme of things, the grand scheme of the goals, the errors are the lessons."
Bordeaux speaks from experience. In a matter of years, after moving from Aurora to California, the rapper experienced a meteoric rise in the music business before falling just as fast. Now he's back in Colorado, better for the experience and with a new EP, Doubt Kills, that he believes not only raises the personal stakes for him as an artist, but raises the stakes for his home town.
Bordeaux found quick success in Hollywood in his early twenties with the singles "Barbie Doll" and the hugely popular "Could It Be You (Punk Rock Chick)," a track issued on Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins's imprint that focused on the glossy materialism and party lifestyle of high-class Los Angeles. "I didn't even go through the whole 'I'm in Hollywood and I can't get into clubs,'" Bordeaux recalls of his time in L.A. "I was already blessed...and then I got signed, and when I got signed, that's when everything became, 'This is really what the industry and life as an artist pursuing this lifestyle is about.'
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"I saw everything," he continues, repeating it twice more, like a bloodied Brando speaking his final words. "Hollywood is the heart of all of it, everything.... I saw how it was. I was wanted to be placed in a box. They wanted 'Could It Be You' 10,000 times. Every song had to be 'Could It Be You,' every time."'
Eventually, the heat from "Could It Be You" faded, and so did H*Wood's star. "You hear about that happening," he says. "I was hot and then I'm not. I had seen it happen, so when it happened, it was like, 'Oh, I can't go there no more? Damn.' It was just my time. My time with focusing on these things is over. That's how I looked at it. With 'Could It Be You,' that whole year, I loved it and had a great time full of great experiences, but I could not have continued to live my life that way."
Bordeaux isn't exactly excited to go into the details. He doesn't want to focus on the past. "There's a lot of dark shit that I've seen, and that's why I stay so positive — because a lot of this shit is dark," he explains. "The whole world is dark, but a lot of it originates from the industry, which originates from Hollywood. I guess just being positive and staying focused on your dream, even from the infant stages, and pushing that all the way to the end, is very important and hard to do, and that's what I really want people to do. I just want to be an example."
One person for whom Bordeaux really wants to set an example is his son, D.J., who was born when Bordeaux was only nineteen. "The announcement of [my son] coming was the most critical point in my life," he remembers. "From that moment, I just decided that I'm not going to stop [making music]. He has to see his dad at least run, run to the dreams, run to the goals. Because if he doesn't at least see that, then it's just going to be right down the same cycle, because I didn't get to see that, and my pops didn't get to see that, and his pops didn't get to see that. So eventually, somebody just has to be the one who's like, 'You know what? Win, lose or draw, this is for the better.'"
Bordeaux extends this mentality beyond his personal credo, though. He wants positivity and self-confidence to be the foundation of his music from now on. "I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to even chase this," he says. "That's enough for me to stay positive, no matter what. I want to be an example to my family and other people, everybody, that if you just stay positive and work hard, good things will come — but that all starts with killing the self-doubt." This type of thinking fuels Doubt Kills. "When you think of a good idea and those million reasons why you shouldn't do it," he says, "ignore those."
Regardless of the difficulty Bordeaux found while in California, he credits his time there with preparing him for what he's aiming to do now that he's back home. "I say that I went to Hollywood University, because that's exactly what it was for me," he points out. "It was like college; I stayed there from [ages] 20 to 24. That was my school. That was how I learned everything.... I look at 'Could It Be You' and I say, 'That was an awesome accomplishment, and that's a great trophy. But just like all the other trophies, they go back into the case.' It's time for me to go do something different, and with [Doubt Kills], I don't feel like I want to get close to that success without Colorado."