“Life Of A DON” Album Review: Don Toliver’s Sudden Rise to Hip-Hop Stardom


Lukas Werner

“Life Of A DON” runs 16 tracks long, creating a 52-minute listening experience that you will not regret.

Will Ceballos, Staff Reporter

Ever since he was discovered by world-renowned Houston rapper Travis Scott, Don Toliver has been knocking on the door of hip-hop stardom. 

After hearing a couple of Toliver’s projects through a mutual friend, Scott presented him with a heavy feature on his song “CAN’T SAY,” which ended up appearing on Scotts’ certified triple platinum album “ASTROWORLD.” This feature was so beloved by fans that Toliver co-signed with Scotts’ label, “Cactus Jack Records.”

At the same time, Toliver’s music career was gaining popularity on TikTok, where he became popular for his song, “No Idea” in the fall of 2019, which had over 800 thousand videos.

However, Toliver is no one-hit-wonder.

Following his initial TikTok fame, Toliver released his debut album “Heaven or Hell,” in March of 2020 which premiered in the top ten on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. 

After a year and a half of releasing singles here and there, he parlayed his talent into his second studio album, “Life Of A DON.” Released on Oct. 8, 2021, the piece projects Toliver’s unique style of hip-hop using his distinctive, high-pitched voice to complement his trap-style beats and rhymes. 

This unique approach of combining traditional Houston-style hip-hop and rhythm and blues gives fans a new, young, exciting name to add to their playlists.

“Life Of A DON” runs 16 tracks long, creating a 52-minute listening experience that you will not regret.

The first two songs, “XSCAPE” and “5X,” use catchy hooks and memorable choruses that immediately spark the realization that Toliver’s approach to this project is a departure from his previous work.

Then, the album takes a turn with the sixth and seventh tracks, “Double Standards” and “Swangin’ On Westheimer.” These two tracks focus on a calm yet dark reflection, where Toliver describes having everything he wants but still feeling empty.

This is emphasized by lyrics such as “It’s so hard to be human / it’s so hard to just live and learn with all of your mistakes,” and “You think it’s way too easy / you’ll never believe me / Life come back in full circle,” he said. Toliver’s lyrics show that the mystique of fame is not always what it is cut out to be. Even with wealth and fame, he is still just as vulnerable to loneliness as anyone else. 

Despite the overall detached feeling of the album, Toliver parses out the depth of loneliness and longing on these two tracks, which perfectly balances the catchy upbeat rhymes.

Then the album’s trajectory moves back towards fun with a repetitive and buoyant track, “Get Throwed.” Toliver’s melodic voice rides this fun beat, putting a smile on your face without sending a deeper emotional message to the listener. 

Despite what the name of the album may suggest, Toliver does not limit his reflections to one singular voice. He lets other stars in the Rap industry shine on features, contributing to the well-rounded perspective on the hip-hop lifestyle. 

The downside to this project is the underwhelming features by Travis Scott on “Flocky Flocky” and “You.” While these songs are not unlistenable by any means, Scott does not match the energy of Toliver in his verses, which is the polar opposite of their collaborations in the past. Based on the success of their shared tracks in the past, it’s surprising that these songs are not the highlight of the album. 

The best song on the album, “OUTERSPACE,” uses a fantastic upbeat feature from Las Vegas-born, upcoming rapper, Baby Keem that provides an infectious hook. The song starts off with a clever, energetic verse from Baby Keem. 

Toliver transitions smoothly into the lyrics at one minute and ten seconds into the track, using his laid-back style to complement the energy Baby Keem projects in his first two verses. The end of the song molds their two unique styles together, perfectly showcasing a preview to the next generation of hip-hop. 

The album serves as an anecdote to the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, and everything else that transpired in these past eighteen months. The album provides a feel-good moment, with a touch of realism, leaving the listener with a chance to experience what it might be like to live the “Life of A DON.”