If you thought Don Toliver's debut album, 'Heaven or Hell' was a disappointment, just wait till you hear his sophomore album, 'Life of a Don' which is basically a disaster, there's just no other way to describe it. Everything's way too druggy, which some people may point out as a positive like on 'Rodeo' but it definitely isn't a positive on this album and numbs my mind until it hurts. Don Toliver doesn't seem to be able to come up with a concise project and just when I thought he had settled on a sound after a couple of features, he proves me wrong by putting the most absurd, awful vocal performances, with his auto-tune even being tuned down a bit, a decision that I'm not a fan of. I guess I can applaud him for being a bit more ambitious with his lyrics and for exploring the exact topics that I wanted him to try, but for someone who's supposed to become one of the best melodic trap rappers of our generation, he struggles to come up with melodies, with not even one melody impressing me, being the biggest reason for why this album feels like a failure. Sadly, the sounds from the production side of things can't come up to save things as the beats seem like bland versions of the beats on 'Heaven or Hell', sounding recycled with the exquisite elements being removed, leaving tasteless, trash beats behind, no offence. 'Life of a Don' doesn't deliver at all as unlike the title suggests, the album has no life whatsoever along with no melodies to carry the album and at this point, I don't see much potential for that perfect album that would change trap forever coming soon, or at least this rate as this is one of the biggest regressions I've witnessed in a rapper.
The vocals from Don Toliver are bad and don't have any of the flashiness that I loved on his debut album and recent features, loosing everything I love about them as he sounds like a way worse version of Travis Scott as much as I hate to say it. Without his melodies, he sounds like a worse version of Travis Scott and I mean that shouldn't come as a surprise as the melodies were what made him sound fresh and fantastic and without them, his auto-tune sounds awkward and he just isn't as amazing vocally. Not to mention, I feel like he isn't aware of his own music and what he needs to improve as it's a no brainer to use his highs more often as it always sounds heavenly and forms some of his best performances vocally, but I only heard his highs being used two or three times briefly on the verses. I mean maybe it's just that we've all figured out Don Toliver and that he just isn't doing anything different enough, not playing with his vocal effects as much as he did on his last album where he was still looking for his sound and like I said earlier, I do think that he had found his sound with his recent features as proof, but he changes things up completely and settles on a less melodic sound vocally while his auto-tune is additionally a bit too rough, really not working well together and only making him sound like a worse Travis Scott. Everything about his vocals make me want to yawn as there's literally nothing about them that make him sound special, singing with Travis Scott-like auto-tune and loosing his spark that separated him from everyone else. Overall, Don Toliver's vocals went nowhere with this album as he showed that he can't be responsible with finding a sound that suits him and sticking with it, naturally drifting off in the wrong way as he lost his talent to effortlessly make magnificent melodies.
The production on the album is below average as I'd call it bad if it didn't bring out two or three beautiful melodies that complimented Don Toliver tremendously, but just like last time, I feel like the star-studded team of producers failed to come up with a smoothly flowing sound that would suit Don Toliver and still doesn't understand Don Toliver's sound the best just like Don Toliver himself doesn't, with maybe a new team being what Don Toliver needs to figure out his sound as all the help he's getting right now is certainly not taking him anywhere and might even be only confusing him even more. With how close to Travis Scott these producers are, I feel like they're treating both artists fairly similar or at least structurally when they're trying to make two different types of trap music, struggling to adapt and get a grip of the more melodic sound that Don is going for as they try to add a bit of jazz elements here and there to make the project sound more extravagant, but it's not what Don Toliver needs as all the druggy synthesizers are drowning out his melodies and not letting his singing to shine, which is why he ends up loosing his spark. Compared to his last album, a lot less research seems to have went into this album as producers actually chose to do something different and unexpected on 'Heaven and Hell', crafting trap beats using antique sounds from all over the world that may have sounded slightly awkward but still managed to create a few cool beats while this album seems to just be basic late night trap beats, similar to the ones on Donda and CLB if you exclude the jazz elements, not complimenting Don Toliver beautifully like intended as there's nothing that stands out because of how bright and center of attention his vocals are. Something much simpler would help a huge amount, which is what Internet Money specializes at, so that could certainly be a future option he should take a closer look at, especially because they've managed to make two of his best songs, 'Lemonade and 'His & Hers' which are both examples of peak trap music. Would've never thought of adding jazz elements to Don Toliver's music as when you think about jazz and trap coming together, you'd likely think of conscious rappers like J Cole but the producers managed to involve the elements excellently as those elements essentially served as the juice to the album, providing flavor to bland beats. My favorite beat would probably be 'Double Standards' as I absolutely adore the sample on the song, adding a care-free, fun atmosphere to the song, clashing with Don Toliver's lyrical approach on the track amazingly as it takes care of the melodic aspect of the track. Overall, the production on the album is not impressive in the slightest and considering the expensive line-up of producers, I'd call the production as huge failure although I will admit that use of jazz elements are excellent, but I'd love to hear the producers take a simplistic approach on his next album.
The lyrics from Don were good as he seems to have realized that his writing was getting way too simple, actually being ambitious with his writing although not going too far away from his usual lyrical topics. At the same time, his writing weirdly seems lazier, expanding his lyrical content and styles/structures but not putting as much as effort as he could've. You can see the realization through the longer song structures as a melodic rapper like him could easily stick with short songs, with as little as one verse but Don Toliver frequently uses three verses in almost all his songs, a decision that may have struck me as excessive but clearly has given him a tiny bit more lyrical freedom as he's packs each verse with as much as he can, adding a significant amount of personality to his music which was something that 'Heaven or Hell' didn't have enough of. The choruses are one of the biggest downgrades from his debut album, never hitting as hard as I want them to with a variety of reasons coming into play for why the choruses aren't as fascinating. First of all, the long verses really take away from the choruses, making the choruses way more forgettable and when they do eventually come along, you're just waiting for the song to end. Secondly, the melodies are never as mind-blowing as they were, something that I've talked about a ton already, with the longer length of songs probably coming into play once again as he essentially runs out of melodies. Also, the choruses are just not close to catchy, a reason for why the replay value doesn't seem super high, at least at the moment. Don Toliver continues to make females the focus of his lyrical content, talking about lust and love, which was something I suggested that he'd move towards lyrically as it'd make him more accessible mainstream-wise. Toning down drug talk was a change I loved for obvious reasons, with the tone of the album being more intimate, replacing the party atmosphere on 'Heaven or Hell'. 'Double Standards' basically sums up the lyrical side of the album as he's actually attempting to send a message through his lyrics although his attempt falling flat as at the end of the song, I still have no idea what he was trying tell the listeners, but it sadly also comes along with a loss of melody from Don Toliver as his focus is shifted in just the slightest towards his lyrics, but completely destroying the part of his music that we all love so much, his melodies. Overall, the lyrics from Don Toliver were tedious as he may have expanded the content to some extent but it came at a cost in almost all other areas.
The features the album were horrible, which really sucks because this album still needed around five more features, adding insult to injury. Travis Scott's feature on 'Flocky Flocky' was fire, with his chemistry with Don Toliver sounding tremendously raw and matching the mood of the beat magnificently, adding a stunning spice to the song that I loved but I just felt like it was nothing more than a nice Travis Scott verse on a song that perfectly fit him. On the other hand, Travis Scott's second feature is super short and not satisfying as his vocals were weirdly way too raspy and rough, not mixing in any melodies into his verse which was what the song required, interrupting what could've been a chill song. The only female feature, Kali Uchis, has the best feature by far as her feature has significantly grown on me over the last few months, only sounding even better on the album as the lack of female vocals only made her performance more important and interesting, with her vocals sounding dreamy and lyrics being pleasant. The last three features were trash, no offence, essentially being some of the biggest disappointments on the album, but I'll go through each of them starting with Baby Keem who I can't completely blame for his feature not being the best because of how Don Toliver chose to combine two incomplete songs with two underwhelming verses from Baby Keem, with Baby Keem's first verse coming over an annoying beat, similar to 'cocoa', with both artists failing to find a groove on the beat, although Baby Keem gets completely carried on the second section of the song as his addition on that half felt super unnecessary but was somewhat a beautiful ending to the track. HVN's vocals on the chorus were horrible, sounding like a snake as he was basically hissing in an unsatisfying way, with Don Toliver beautifully doing his chorus in a a calmer manner, although HVN really surprised me on his verse where he sounded super good, slightly smooth and rapping with swag. SoFaygo, the feature I was waiting for had a really short verse like Travis Scott on 'You', coming in with a satisfying enthusiasm but coming out of nowhere as I just felt like he made the messy song, even more messier. I see they subtly mimicked the track-list structure of 'The Melodic Blue' by Baby Keem as this album had two features from the label head along with a feature from the opposite (Baby Keem) and a bonus major artist (Kali Uchis) while hiding a few smaller artists throughout the album. Would've rather had a Kanye West feature and a Drake feature than all of these features as they'd actually fit the aesthetic of this album but I can see why that wasn't possible as they're two of the biggest artists in the world and because of their beef between each other. Overall, the features on the album fell flat, frustrating me as they added absolutely nothing to the album, leaving the album as stale as it was while additionally not coming close to the expectations that I had for them.
Don Toliver didn't just not evolve, but he took a big step backwards which was the last thing I wanted to see as I wanted him to find his sound at the least. I knew he would likely not drop the genre-changing album, but him not finding his sound took me by surprise as he seemed to be nailing all his features, with each feature additionally having a nice consistency to them. On 'Life Of A Don', Don Toliver seems to move towards improving on the technical side as a rapper instead of embracing his melodies as a singer, which I honestly could see as a good thing for some, but personally for me, it took out all the magic from his music. I no longer think he has the ability to create an album that will change trap forever as it just might've been too much to put on his name along with there not being enough evidence to prove that he ever had the potential to create such an album, with the expectation of him to create that album being formed only because he's under Travis Scott's label. Not being able to utilize huge producers such as Mike Dean and Metro Boomin speaks volumes, either that Don Toliver doesn't know what to do with such large resources or that Mike Dean and Metro Boomin are no longer as could as they once were as they couldn't adjust the beats to help Don Toliver adapt to them. I have a feeling that it's a bit of both, but also because Don Toliver's just working with the wrong producers as just because he has this beautiful bunch of producers at his disposal doesn't mean he has to use them as Internet Money is the no brainer option for the team of producers that he should've worked with, especially as he hasn't just created one heavenly hit with them, but two, with both songs being his best material to date as I've mentioned. Even though I may no longer have the expectations for Don Toliver that I along with many others once had, I'll still anticipate and enjoy the music that he drops as just because he may not create a trap revolutionary album doesn't mean he's not a special artist and who knows, a miracle may occur and Don Toliver drops the album that we were once waiting for.
Overall, 'Life Of A Don' is likely one of the most disappointing albums of the year as he fails to capitalize on all the hype of his recent, really good feature performances but it's not all his fault as I feel like there's a certain decisions behind the scenes from his label that have influenced this bland change of direction along with Don Toliver focusing on the wrong things, with this album having bad vocals, below average production, and good lyrics.
Best Tracks: Crossfaded, 2AM, Drugs N Hella Melodies, XCAPE, Flocky Flocky
Worst Tracks: Get Throwed, Company Part 2, Smoke, You