Graphic by Joe Weishaar.
After two standout singles that came out earlier this year, the Houston artist Don Toliver dropped his highly anticipated second studio album, ‘Life of a DON’, on Oct. 8. This is a direct follow-up to his first album, ‘Heaven or Hell’, which went Gold in 2020. Despite the high expectations set by ‘Heaven or Hell’, ‘Life of a DON’ lives up to and exceeds the hype.
Toliver has already made a massive impact in the hip hop game despite being a relative newcomer. His feature on ‘Astroworld’, created by Cactus Jack labelmate Travis Scott, set him up as one of the best hook masters in the game today. Since then, Toliver has been featured everywhere, going from Cactus Jack’s ‘JACKBOYS’ to Internet Money’s “Lemonade” to Masego’s “Mystery Lady” within the last few months and years.
‘Life of a DON’ has sixteen tracks, with the Apple Music/iTunes release adding three music videos. Despite its track number, the album surprisingly falls under an hour, which helps encourage multiple listens. ‘Life of a DON’ also has five features, the same number of features as ‘Heaven or Hell’. Those features had some heavy-hitting artists like Travis Scott, Kali Uchis, Baby Keem, HVN and SoFaygo.
Going into this album, I didn’t know what to expect. Even though I enjoyed “What You Need” and “Drugs N Hella Melodies (ft. Kali Uchis)”, which were the two singles leading into the album, Toliver’s style switches a lot. Even if he stays true to his smooth and infectious style, I was still ready to be surprised.
The album opener, “XSCAPE”, immediately sets the pace of the album. It starts with a violin, which quickly caught my attention. Toliver controls the song and keeps the listener hooked. When you think the beat is going to drop, he smooths it out and makes it even more enjoyable. So, that immediately set it as one of my favorites from this album.
The songs that stood out to me were, of course, “What You Need” and “Drugs N Hella Melodies”, which were the album’s main singles. I also really liked “Swangin’ On Westheimer”, “2AM”, “Flocky Flocky” and “Crossfaded”.
But my favorite song on this entire project is “OUTERSPACE”, featuring Baby Keem. That song got a lot of replays from me. Toliver and Keem vibed and complimented each other so well that it was impossible not to listen to them over and over again.
Another highlight for me was “You”, featuring Travis Scott. That beat is so infectious to listen to, and Scott and Toliver complimented each other really well. They are labelmates, yes, but it’s clear they have chemistry performing together, even within that first song in ‘Astroworld’.
I loved the production on this album. I think it’s very different from what the casual hip-hop listener is used to listening to. The beats on some of the songs had an out-of-space feel to them, which really worked. There are some heavy-hitting producers on this album, too, with producers like Mike Dean, Hit-Boy, Sonny Digital, Mustard and more appearing throughout.
Again, “You” might have been the best beat on the album, with how infectious it is. But the “Swingin’ On Westheimer” instrumental was another favorite of mine since it had an old-school R&B feel to it.
This album is good, but I think some of these songs will have to grow on me. ‘Life of a DON’ definitely has room to grow, but that’s part of the appeal. Don Toliver will definitely ascend even more than he has already, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.
I give ‘Life of a DON’ a 7.5 out of 10. I will definitely listen to this album more, and I think other people should give it a listen too.