Talia Rueda ’23
Don Toliver released his second studio album on Oct. 8, 2021. Although the tracks were entirely original, they also sound quite familiar.
This is because hip-hop legend Travis Scott doubles as Toliver’s mentor and friend. Scott discovered Toliver, and it is clear why the prolific rapper saw a future with the up-and-comer. Not only are both artists originally from Houston, TX, but they also share an uncanny taste in hip-hop production and promote similar artistry. Whether speaking in terms of their luxurious lifestyles, high fashion, or tailored sounds, they have become a dynamic duo in the industry.
Life of a Don presents the point of view of someone with newfound fame who is under the wing of a mentor, but also attempting to strike out on his own. Toliver joined Scott’s record label, Cactus Jack, in early 2017. His privilege of learning to navigate the industry from one of the most accomplished artists of this generation is apparent throughout the album.
Toliver has certainly experienced Scott’s endeavours firsthand, Life of a Don explores his feelings regarding his own fame, as he finds that he is now the one in the spotlight. His lyrics express that he would rather count his money or break a girl’s heart than deal with the complications of life in the spotlight. While Scott, among other acclaimed musicians, has graduated from the shock of being famous, this extremely familiar theme appears in many artists’ albums. It is almost a rite of passage for musicians to contemplate their life decisions when they have achieved a certain degree of success.
Ironically, this is what is most interesting about Toliver’s new project. Although it is not extremely original with regard to production, the album’s normality reminds listeners what they love about the current era of hip-hop. Furthermore, the sound that the Cactus Jack team promotes is not only one of high production quality, but also effervescence. Scott, in particular, is known for his unreal sound design that makes listeners wonder how he and his team possibly constructed the beats on a computer. Naturally, these same aspects appear in Life of a Don, especially with its synthetics. Despite this influence Toliver certainly brings his own niche elements to the project.
Indeed, while Toliver certainly benefits from being an apprentice of Travis Scott, he has also found his own speciality with the vocal melodies that flow so easily from him. For instance, on his single “OUTER SPACE,” Toliver ironically conveys the song’s intensity with the natural lightness of his vocals. The parts of this and other songs that truly get the listener’s blood pumping are those Toliver narrates with the murky subtleness of his melodies. In simple terms, he’s relaxed and ready at the same time; he breathes life into his lyrics with this lightening sound.
Toliver’s second studio album captures so many aspects that listeners love about today’s era of electrifying hip-hop. Following the techniques of Travis Scott is clearly one of the smartest things a new artist can do to gain traction, but offering a fresh perspective on hip-hop will keep him afloat in the ever-growing hip-hop industry.
Indeed, Scott may be the master of highly-textured sound design, but his mentee might be the genius when it comes to the soft and glossy elegance on which hip-hop melodies thrive.
Clearly anticipating these elements from Toliver’s second studio album, avid fans and curious listeners alike launched Life of a Don to number one on the Apple Music pre-add chart. The album is now available for purchase and streaming.