Don Toliver has one of the most unique inflections in hip-hop right now, really making waves as somewhat of a trap Sampha. He is capable of mesmerising performances, holding it down impressively on Travis Scott's CAN'T SAY, and of course his spell-binding contribution to Kanye's Moon. However, on his solo work, Don Toliver continues to remain in the slow lane, churning out banal trap that only hints at his abilities on the microphone. And while Life of a Don is marginally better than last year's Heaven or Hell, Don still doesn't seem to know how to create captivating songs when he's left to his own devices. Sure, there are stand-out tracks here, but they pale in comparison to those aforementioned features, and only shine given the relative dullness of the rest of the project. Stand-out hooks can be found on the Gunna-channeling Way Bigger, and the catchy closer BOGUS. Guest appearances are scattershot at best. Travis Scott can only manage to stick the landing on one of two of his features (You is a faltering, wavy mess), and the Don Toliver and Kali Uchis duet Drugs n Hella Melodies is the multi-faceted trap opus that this album desperately needed. This track is an incredible marriage of spacey R&B vibes and trap aesthetics, and it's just a shame that Don Toliver doesn't harness this energy more than once on Life of a Don. Despite being 2021's unexpectedly impressive hitmaker, Baby Keem is barely recognisable for his brief contribution to the boring OUTERSPACE, and SoFaygo continues his legacy of being a budget Playboi Carti on the uninspired Smoke. As a whole project, this album is really a minefield. Sometimes it's gorgeously attention-grabbing, and Don's iconic vocals can steal the show. But too often, the tracklist is bogged down with run-of-the-mill trap cuts that don't contribute new ideas or sounds to the greater picture. Don has it in him to drop a real classic - a decent crop of tracks can be picked out here - but there needs to be more quality control at Cactus Jack Records, because I'm sure everyone involved in this album knows he has it in him to do better.
Drugs n Hella Melodies
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