Don Toliver — Life of a DON — Album Review

Hip-Hop | R&B

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I have a rather unorthodox listening experience when it comes to the Houston song artist and rapper that is Don Toliver.

Up until recently, I have only ever really experienced Toilver’s vocal style through guest features. However, each and every one of them I’ve seemingly enjoyed. Some great examples of this include his inputs on tracks like Nas’ “Replace Me”, Rico Nasty’s “Don’t Like Me”, and Kanye West’s “Moon”. However, now is the time I give merit to Don Toliver’s own music.

Life of a DON is the sophomore studio album from Don Toliver, following the 2020 debut Heaven or Hell. And of course, it would also serve as my first proper time listening to Don Toliver outside of his features. From those, I was able to get a very good sense of how insane his vocal range is. In fact, it’s no surprise that Toliver rose to popularity so swiftly. His high notes especially allow him to stand out from a tonne of other artists in the modern hip-hop community. And with that in mind, I was certainly excited to get into it.

After looking into the fact that Don Toliver is both from Houston, Texas, and has released this album under the Cactus Jack label, it made sense for Life of a DON to carry a lot of Travis Scott-isms, which the album indeed does. Furthermore, the aforementioned Scott appears twice on the album’s track list. Other features include the likes of Kali Uchis, Baby Keem, and more.

But taking one step back to the similarities this album carries when comparing it to something you’d expect from Travis Scott, it feels like something of a double-edged sword in the case of Life of a DON. The more accessible feel that the album champions indeed works in its favour, and thus, makes it a truly enjoyable listen. However, I feel that it compromises Don Toliver’s uniqueness somewhat. As a result, it lets the album become one that could more easily be backed into the corner of contemporary R&B.

But aside from that, there aren’t many glaring complaints that I really have with this sophomore record at all. Almost every track plays a small part in strengthening the album as an overall experience, and thus I felt that it flowed incredibly well. Of course, the narrative feels quite typical for a hip-hop album, but it was slightly more refreshing listening to it from Don Toliver’s perspective.

But of course, the best quality this album carries is quite simply Don Toliver’s voice, and just how smoothly it mixes with the Texan hip-hop type production. It made for quite the colourful, yet also sobering listening experience. High-notes are still quite uncommon by album standards on Life of a DON. However, the tracks that do have them serve as some the album’s most memorable moments.

I do also feel that this album would’ve worked far better as a summer release, given its warmer atmosphere. Although, one could say that Life of a DON is a project that serves as a blissful reminder of the warmer days just gone.

Favourite Tracks: Double Standards| 2AM | Smoke

Least Favourite Track: You

Cactus Jack | WeRunIt | Atlantic Records Group

Enjoyment: 9/10 | Memorability: 8/10 | Atmosphere: 9/10

Uniqueness: 6/10 | Satisfaction: 7/10 | Narrative: 7/10

Final Score: 8/10

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.