December 10, 2023

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Album Review: Don Toliver – Life of a Don

by GVHSJagJournal
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By: Ryan Croke

Don Toliver has finally released his long-awaited follow-up project to his 2020 breakout project Heaven or Hell. Released on October 7, Life of a Don sees Toliver building on his vocal talents and exploring a fusion of trap & R&B sounds, creating a very ethereal and intimate record that does not disappoint. The Cactus Jack signee made waves in 2018 with his debut mixtape Donny Womack, and a feature on the wildly successful Travis Scott project ASTROWORLD earned him praise and the spotlight from millions of fans. I was relatively impressed with Don’s work up until the release of this album, and the 2 lead singles, What You Need and Drugs N Hella Melodies are some of my favorite songs of his to date. I was immediately hooked when What You Need was surprise-dropped on May 4 of this year, and I was intrigued by the sound that Don was exploring. It was a lot more personal than most of the tracks on Heaven or Hell, and a lot more melodic than anything he had ever put out. This is consistent with Life of a Don as a whole, which is an extremely intimate record, with the entire album following a lovestruck Don from life’s glorious highs to its introspective lows. It thoroughly impresses from back to front, although some moments are worse than others. What makes Life of a Don such an intriguing listen? Keep reading and you will find out.

Life of a Don features a great deal of experimentation from Don Toliver, most of which pays off, but there are a few tracks reminiscent of his early work that do not disappoint. Tracks like Drugs N Hella Melodies, Double Standards, and Crossfaded are gorgeous R&B cuts that see Don using his unique voice to its fullest potential. Bangers like OUTERSPACE, Smoke, and BOGUS feature a perfect blend of trap and R&B and are extremely enjoyable for listeners with all types of tastes. It was smart of Toliver to balance the record like this, as too much experimentation can backfire on the reception of an album, as one of Don’s mentors, Kanye West, has found out the hard way. Another impressive track from this album is Swangin’ on Westheimer, a heavenly, intimate ballad that sees Don expressing his love in the most genuine way on the entire LP. This track is similar to some of Drake’s best work but is unique enough to stand out. The beautiful thing about LoaD is that it keeps those looking for what they know to be Don Toliver satisfied while also impressing those who felt he could do something more, and that is almost impossible to accomplish. 

So much has changed for Don since the release of 2020’s Heaven or Hell, and that is reflected in this album. This album clearly has a much bigger budget, and while the production is far from extravagant or grandiose, the instrumentals used on LoaD are much more built-up than those of its predecessor. Don drifts away from the extremely electronic, synth-heavy production on Heaven or Hell to a sound that is much more acoustic but still retains the synth-heavy production that pairs with his voice so well, and it is quite refreshing to hear. The features list is also quite impressive, with great features from Baby Keem, SoFaygo, Kali Uchis, and HVN providing diverse sounds and styles to the tracks they are featured on. Cactus Jack Records owner and worldwide sensation Travis Scott also features on two tracks, but his appearances were far from perfect. Regardless, the relatively small amount of features on this project allow Don to shine on his own but also hone his abilities with the accompaniment of other young upcoming talents. The one issue I have with LoaD is its lack of impressive songwriting, but an album like this is not attempting to showcase lyrical ability but to give the listener an extremely enjoyable experience, and it more than succeeds in that. Overall, Life of a Don is an incredibly enjoyable album that gives fans everything they could have asked for and more from Don Toliver, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

Favorite Tracks:

  • Swangin’ on Westheimer
  • Smoke
  • Double Standards
  • What You Need
  • Drugs N Hella Melodies
  • Crossfaded
  • Company Pt 2

Least Favorite Tracks:

  • 5X
  • Get Throwed

Overall Score: 9.5/10

Listen to Life of a Don by Don Toliver

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