After being taken under the wing of ultimate rager Travis Scott, Don Toliver has finally released his debut album under the Cactus Jack imprint. Making his distinct voice and face known to the world after being featured on Scott’s ‘Can’t Say’ as well as the recent JACKBOYS project, ‘Heaven or Hell’ is a well produced introduction into his purgatorius mind.
From the off, it’s clear that Travis has been a heavy influence on Don’s musical stylings, using those deep south vibes, chopped n’ screwed sounds and hard hitting bass that are so typical in Travis’ material. What Don does differently though is inject some calm into the mix, giving his music the feel of a good acid trip, all tingling senses and heightened perception, feeling every single element in the atmosphere.
The project’s second track was one of the most anticipated songs of 2020 so far. First debuting as the soundtrack of an Instagram video promoting Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic line, fans began flooding her comments begging for a release date of the highly infectious song. That day finally arrived with the release of this album, and the track ‘Euphoria’. Featuring Travis Scott and singer Kaash Paige, the song lives up to its high expectations as well as its title, allowing listeners to ascend into their own version of heaven. But as the track ends, the slow descent into hell begins.
And the “hell” is as important on this album as the “heaven”. Toliver’s debut is reminiscent of a psychedelic road trip in which the scenery is seemingly beautiful until you run into a pothole, things immediately turning bad as the demons come out to play. Take ‘Spaceship, where Don enlists label mate Sheck Wes to dramatic effect, his aggressive tone contrasting sharply with Don’s high octave vocals, the resulting tension making you feel as if you’re literally in-between your destined afterlife.
Features from Migos members Offset and Quavo on ‘Had Enough’ make for another notable moment on the project – it’s refreshing to hear them at a slower tempo than usual and striking a different tone, seemingly more in touch with their emotions and loving towards their significant others.
Closing the album with previously released ‘No Idea’, the album’s outro somewhat reins in the chaos of the bad trip and life begins to finally level out. Although the project heavily draws on Travis Scott’s style, Don Toliver’s high vocals create a whole new sound whilst still paying homage to his mentor. It’s a great solo introduction into the industry.
7/10 Words: Debbie Ijaduola
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