• Avant Garb

Don Toliver

Written by Jelani Driskell

Illustration by Elisha Osemobar



In Big Mood, staff writer Jelani Driskell highlights the people behind the vibe, profiling the little-known artists behind the cutting edge of music.

Over Spring Break, I spent a week in LA with a few of my friends. We ate a lot of good food and visited places all over California. We spent a lot of time riding around in my friend’s Dodge Challenger, and I learned firsthand about the ordeal that is LA traffic. In order to keep us going, we listened to a lot of music. My friend is a big Travis Scott fan: we love his most recent album, Astroworld. Even though I’m convinced of the rumors that Scott has Drake and Kanye write for him, all of that goes out the window when considering how good that album actually sounds. One of our favorite tracks from Astroworld is “CAN’T SAY”, which features an up-and-coming artist that’s catching all of our ears at the moment: Don Toliver.


It’s only fitting that Travis Scott would feature Don Toliver on his album: a fellow Houston native, Don Toliver has been making noise in the city for a while. In an interview with HighSnobiety, he details how he became a hometown hero of sorts: “Before I was able to meet Travis Scott, I had to take over the city. That means every night for like three to five months straight I was in every strip club, every club, in every DJ’s face getting my records spun. Spending time with DJs, figuring out the game, and how to play.”


He’s since been signed to Cactus Jack records, Scott’s record label imprint which also features artists Smokepurpp and Sheck Wes. Last August, he released his first project under the label, titled Donny Womack. The name is a play on the 1960’s R&B singer Bobby Womack, one of Toliver’s most prominent muses. While in Cali, we had this album on repeat.


Donny Womack is a catchy, high-energy project that is sure to get you amped up no matter the situation. The album, with its cough syrupy sound typical of Houston, is reminiscent of a young Future, though Toliver displays a distinct energy. This is why the project feels so refreshing—since Future/Young Thug have been established as the “godfathers” of modern trap music, many artists attempt to clone their sound, adding nothing new or compelling. Toliver, though clearly influenced by them, has his own, idiosyncratic sound.


The song “Backend” is one of the most popular on the album, and for good reason: it’s a hard-hitting trap explosion that exemplifies Toliver’s energy. It’s great for any pregame activities. But the highlight of the album is “2 Lil Shorty”-- it sounds like a window into a tropical fantasy world in which Toliver is the supreme ruler. The beat features a dreamy guitar melody and punchy drums, both fitting well with Toliver’s warbly vocals. Although the refrain is merely him saying “OK OK, aye, yea yea yea,” there’s fire in its simplicity - a testament to the attention that Toliver is able to command with just his voice. My friends and I named this our Spring Break anthem, which we’ll surely be bumping more fittingly now that the Maine weather is getting better. If I don’t hear this song on Quad Day at Ivies, I’m boycotting the rest of the weekend. Big fact.


Regardless, Toliver will surely continue to carve his own lane within the music industry; he’s in the running to become an XXL freshman, which will surely make him much more of a household name. Late last year, he mentioned that he’d start working on a new project in the beginning of 2019, which I’ll surely keep my eyes peeled for. In the meantime, go take a listen to Donny Womack, a guaranteed hit on your pregame playlists.