It’s been about three years since Don Toliver emerged onto the scene, and in so little time, he has worked himself to a position that many new artists still struggle to reach. In fact, it would be very difficult to imagine the game without him here blessing all our musical needs. His artistry has been unmatched, his flows are unique, and he is able to craft melodies like no other. After his debut album Heaven or Hell which was released in early 2020, his trajectory has skyrocketed and he easily marked himself as a high-profile artist that everyone had their eyes on.
Making his way onto huge anthems such as Internet Money’s “Lemonade”, and “His & Hers”, as well as landing placements with major artists like Nas, Eminem, and Big Sean, Don is on his way to the top, and there ain’t a thing standing in his way of getting there. Last weekend, Don Toliver released his sophomore album titled Life of a Don, and this is the body of work that many fans were anticipating for so long. Safe to say, Don Toliver delivered on all fronts, and this album will play a significant role in his career thus far.
The direction of the Album
It is often said that the tone you set on your first album is what many will stamp you to be. While Donny Womack was technically Don’s first body of work, his first official studio release was Heaven or Hell. What many listeners learned to grow and love about Don from that album, is the euphoric sounds, soothing melodies, and dramatic breakdowns in his songs. This time around, on Life of a Don, it feels amazing that the sound that he stamped as his own is still very much present here on his latest offering.
For the subject matter of the album, Don Toliver gives fans a deeper glance into his life as it stands today, and really taps into more of the events that take place in his life. Life of a Don, while such a simple title, is definitely a play on words as well. Don meaning Don Toliver, and Don meaning a higher-up or a boss. Don was able to perfectly capture what fans loved from his previous body of work, and expound upon it, making it a step further. We got to learn more about the highs and lows from his last album, and now on Life of a Don, we get to know more about not only Don Toliver, But Caleb Toliver, which is his real name.
As if Don’s stellar vocals weren’t enough, another strong area that Don never fails in is the production of his music. Not even speaking just in terms of the beat itself, but the overall finished product. Each mix is crystal clear, each vocal sits perfectly on top of the beat, and the flow of the album feels perfect as well. One man to thank for how amazing this album sounds aside from Don himself would be the legendary Mike Dean who handled a lot of the mixing and executive produced the album as well. This is a significant part that shows the difference between artists who are just making a collection of songs, versus the artists who are putting together a cohesive body of work.
Coming in at a perfect sixteen tracks long, Don Toliver enlisted a ton of amazingly talented producers on this album. Cardo really showed out on the tracks he producer on here, being “5X”, “Flocky Flocky”, and “BOGUS”. On “Get Throwed”, Don stepped out of his comfort zone with production from Mustard with a song that gave off heavy Cali vibes. Some of the best production on this album, however, comes from Metro Boomin. “Company Pt. 2” is one of the records that Metro produced, which serves as the sequel to “Company” on Don’s first album Heaven or Hell. “Swangin’ on Westheimer” might be the best beat on the album as Metro flipped a classic Justin Timberlake song “Until The End of Time”.
Perfect Selection of Guest Features
By far, one of the most desirable traits that a musician can have is their ability to know when and when not to utilize a guest feature. While most people may feel like the more features, the better the project is, it takes another level of artistry to be able to carry the entire project to make their story be told, and then have the features come at the perfect moment. For Life of a Don, that is the exact approach taken here. There are only five total guests on this album, that being Kali Uchis, Travis Scott, SoFaygo, HVN, and Baby Keem.
Often so, depending on the caliber of the artist, the features tend to overshadow the main attraction to the point where people naturally gravitate towards the songs that have the biggest feature on them. However, in the case of Don Toliver, he managed to enlist some amazing guest verses here and still was able to maintain his own spotlight. Enlisting the Cactus Jack head-honcho Travis Scott on both “Flocky Flocky” and “You”, Don and Travis’ melodies mesh perfectly on both of these collaborations, and not once do they get in each other’s way at all. After a stellar verse given on Baby Keem’s album The Melodic Blue, it was only right that Keem made an appearance on Don’s album as well. On “OUTERSPACE”, the two trade verses over production that maintains that futuristic feeling that we know and love from Don. Finally, on “Smoke”, Cactus Jack signee SoFaygo delivers a guest verse here as well as a verse from the amazingly talented upcoming act HVN.
It can definitely be a challenge for artists to deliver a strong follow-up when they come out of the gate with an album filled with hits and cult classics. Not only that but being signed to someone who has as much star power as Travis Scott definitely can add more pressure and expectations laid upon anyone who is signed to him. Nonetheless, Don Toliver’s Life of a Don proves that none of that can get in the way of his journey when he’s as talented as he is.
Where this project stands in his discography, and the importance it plays in his career is a great body of work that proves a lot. If you have been a fan of Don since Donny Womack, you can see the progression as he is not on his third project. If you just caught on to Don after Heaven or Hell, you should be more than satisfied with what he has to offer, as he expounds on more of the vibrations created on his first album. If this is your first body of work you’ve listened to from Don, it’s safe to say that this is a great introduction into just how talented of an artist Don is, and how much he truly cares about his craft. As he continues to live life, discover himself, and create more memories, his music will reflect that and only get better from here.