- Words Cal McIntyre
Texan powerhouse rapper Don Toliver has had a year like no other, and is continuing his supernova rise to fame as he is announced as Apple Music's Up Next Artist for May 2020.
Coming off the recent success of his debut album, Heaven or Hell, Toliver’s idiosyncratic brand of addictive choruses and woozy, psychedelic-synths has made him one of the most interesting and exciting artists to break through since 2018.
If you somehow haven’t heard Don Toliver’s name yet, you will have definitely his music as it catches like fire across the internet and Don Toliver’s energy within his tracks is something that is hard to forget. His music is much more of a feeling – determined to share his unique perspective and experiences through his incredibly honest and powerful lyricism, Toliver’s music finds a home in anyone who listens to it. It’s unsurprising that Don Toliver is Houston born and bred, as the talent that has been shining out of Houston over the last few years makes us think there’s something wonderful in the water there.
With a string of admirable and inspirational collaborations under his belt, it’s pretty clear that Don is just getting started as he is announced as Apple Music’s Up Next Artist for May 2020 -Apple Music’s monthly artist initiative geared towards identifying, showcasing and elevating rising talent.
Whilst it’s been a pretty crazy and difficult year for everyone, it’s been a whirlwind year for Don too as he shot to superstardom whilst the world seemingly changes day by day, and the life we once knew slips away. However, the beauty in this can be found within Don’s work – his album, ‘Heaven Or Hell’, encompasses the prolific lyricism that truly makes him stand out from his peers. ‘Heaven Or Hell’ is an album to reflect, feel and release to – which is exactly the point of Don’s work. His music sits at the intersection of energy and nostalgia.
We caught up with the premiere rapper amidst isolation to discuss how he is feeling with everything going on around him, if his creative process has changed at all in isolation and what’s exactly on his mind right now…
Asking how someone is has never been more important in today’s everchanging and difficult world, I’m pleased to hear when Don tells me, “I’m good man, there’s a lot going on… but I’m trying to keep my good vibes at the minute in my hometown of Houston.” Diving deeper, Don tells me that he has “been mentally locking into myself more than ever”. “I’ve been learning more about me,” he continues, “when it comes to how I’ve been feeling spiritually, it’s crazy… There’s a lot of new things happening worldwide that a lot of people aren’t used to. You’re seeing a lot of different things from people, good and bad, so I think this experience is teaching me to learn more about who I am as a person.”
Don Toliver released his album, ‘Heaven Or Hell’, the day he went into lockdown. For artists and creatives everywhere, there has never been a time like this, and putting work out into the world has maybe never been more important. Don tells me “it’s crazy bro, we had this whole plan – after the album dropped we were supposed to do a lot of shows, a lot of festivals, tours… everything! Obviously, all of that didn’t happen for me – I have only been on tour one time, so I haven’t fully experienced what that is like yet. In a way, everything that is happening right now with the pandemic is already what I was going through, so nothing has changed super much for me in terms of my routine, but I am in a different light in terms of my career now.”
Don Toliver’s writing is like no other, hence his shot into stardom as he continues to cement his powerful status as a wordsmith. Add in his stellar beats and addictive melodies, Toliver’s album feels like a fully packaged body of work. When it comes to the message behind it as a whole, Toliver tells me, “It’s really about the ups and downs of everything.” Diving deeper, he reveals, “I feel like one thing a lot of people have learned is don’t ever take anyone for granted, don’t ever look past a stranger in the street – you don’t know who that person is and what they are doing in their own time, they could be creating a masterpiece and you just don’t know it yet.” Sounds about right!
“When I dropped my album,” Don tells me, “it got a lot of notice and attention, and it came out of nowhere.” Don’s rise and rise is undoubtedly well-deserved as you can feel his energy, humbleness and authenticity pour from his words.
When it comes to his creative process, Don lets me know that “I have a muscle memory type of routine when it comes to creating my music.” Continuing on, he lets me know that his inspiration comes to him, and when it does, he has to let it out. Self-describing his sound as “melodic hi-hop with a lot of soul in it.” Don Toliver’s music is definitely that – wrapped up in an emotion that makes you feel the power behind the words, his music is a breath of fresh air in the soundscape of modern music.
Growing up in Houston gave Don the time to “search”, he tells me, “there’s a creative space in Houston that allows to be and do whatever it is that you want. My younger years was filled with a lot of time to figure out who I was – I got out of High School and I knew the traits and the things that I liked, but I still had more searching to do, I feel like I didn’t know me, which took a little while to figure out. I just lived life like any other kid, but I was concerned with figuring out who I was.”
Signing off the interview with Don telling me the advice he would give his younger self, he concludes with “there’s a whole world of music that can exist on your laptop, figure out how to do it or else you will go crazy!” Take the advice for free, future music makers.