Don Toliver – Love Sick

A career-high best from the Houston artist...

Don Toliver is out in front. The Texan all-rounder has handled his career with ruthless efficiency – there’s the work rate, for one, with ‘Love Sick’ representing his third album in almost as many years. But he’s able to balance huge hits – the perennial ear-worm ‘No Idea’ for example – with stunning creativity, introducing left-field ideas into hip-hop’s mainstream. Indeed, it’s this balance that makes ‘Love Sick’ his finest work to date, the fullest realisation of his undaunted potential.

In conversation with Clash last year the Houston artist kept his cards close to his chest, and it’s easy to see why. ‘Love Sick’ is a complex, multi-faceted work, a record that moves from electronic innovators – James Blake and Toro y Moi – through to collaborators of a more personal note, such as partner Kali Uchis. At times soulful and pensive, at others hard-hitting, it presents Don Toliver in 360, touching on massive commercial moments – that slick Justin Bieber collab – and more underground flavours.

Indeed, such is the strength of the record that listing highlights becomes almost a plethora of riches. ‘Let Her Go’ is a stunning pairing with James Blake, his forlorn vocal offering brittle melancholia against a searching performance from the Houston artist. WizKid link-up ‘Slow Motion’ steals turf from The Weeknd with its thick gloss, while the surging Jersey Club energy on ‘Bus Stop’ pivots between Don and fellow trailblazer Brent Faiyaz.

Often, though, it’s the solo moments that cut deepest. Using the lengthy list of features as one aspect of his world-building mission, ‘Love Sick’ often thrills when Don is left on his own. Using flows that blur the lines between rap and R&B, tracks like ‘Time Heals All’ or the dulcet ‘Honeymoon’ present an artist in full flow, using the complete reach of his powers.

A song cycle about love, trust, betrayal, and moving on, a key moment on ‘Love Sick’ comes from a collaboration with Kali Uchis. Not their first time on record – she also stars on previous LP ‘Life Of A Don’ – it’s an expression of love at its purest, a heart-on-sleeve moment that startles with its simple truth. Amid the glitz, the hype, the online intrusion, Don Toliver still locates a space to call his own – and that’s what makes ‘Love Sick’ so thrilling.


Words: Robin Murray

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