Short & Brief: Life of a DON is a plush escape.

Originally written Oct. 8, 2021

Life of A Don

Don Toliver (Cactus Jack/ Atlantic)

Short & Brief: Don Toliver’s Life of a Don is a wildly cinematic album that leads its listeners through the sinuous roads of vices and virtues.

It feels like buckling into a high-speed roller coaster while intoxicated (not that I’ve lived to experience this). In theory, it’s exhilarating as it peaks at the top of euphoria, right before the coaster plummets deep into melancholy and despair, only to coast upward again.

“Tastin’ cotton candy, hit the gas, oh (two cups)
I’m doin’ a hunnid, I ain’t see the dash, oh
I count my blessings, know I’m movin’ fast,”.

– Don Toliver “Flocky Flocky” (feat. Travis Scott), Life of a D.O.N.

Now for the real spill, shall we proceed?

Too much of anything will make you sick, but why would you stop when the getting is so good? How could you?

That’s what this album feels like. The sugary candy that I’m sure will rot my teeth and send my stomach into flames. Yet, the flutters it gives in my chest make me spin it just another time.

The 19-track album —clocking in at one hour and nine minutes — is what you’d expect from the Cactus Jack team. Yet, Toliver’s affiliation with Travis Scott doesn’t take precedence over Toliver’s voice and creative genius.

If anything, it speaks to the importance of having a solid camp that can hone in and push your artistry to the forefront. Remember how G.O.O.D. Music’s releases used to feel? I can see Cactus Jack offering that exact synergy, only adding longevity to the equation.

The album opens with “X.S.C.A.P.E.,” and all I could visualize was a 2021 rendition of the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby.

From the production to the lyrics and Toliver’s tone when wheedling his muse, the imagery of Gatsby’s green light beam in a moonlit sky replayed in my mind repeatedly.

[For those unfamiliar with the novel, Jay Gatsby — a robust and highly esteemed man throws all these lavish parties that fancy the masses, all to lure his former lover Daisy Buchanan.]

Toliver’s subtle offering to this muse is enticing in itself. It’s the classic tale of a woman who feels bound to a worthless romance that chains her to a lackluster lifestyle.

Yet, there’s a mysterious suitor [Toliver] who can provide better and subliminally yet advantageously makes his presence known.

“Got you comin’ out thе crib, and he ain’t comin’ out of pocket.
How long this gon’ take? Know you just wanna еscape
Know you just want a break.
But girl, you gotta embrace (Yeah).
And I know that it gets old and it gets cold (Yeah).
Just pull up when you outside before the gate close,”.


– Don Toliver, “X.S.C.A.P.E.,” Life of a D.O.N.

Plain and simple, this isn’t an album you listen to. It’s one you interact with. The entire album unfolds as a sybaritic experience relying heavily on one’s ability to entertain sensations.

There’s a unique textile to it. So full of texture, it leaves you with a specific sentiment — almost like an aftertaste.

The album’s theme is puffed up with vices and dependency on escapism and the regret that straggles behind.

Have you ever heard of how the devil only tempts you with your deepest desires? This album feels like an ever-so-sweet yet lethal temptation.

Almost like a whimsical waltz of enchantment with your worst vice. There’s only a fire pit between the two of you as you dance in tandem, bidding for your soul.

It’s a sonic representation of the seven deadly sins.

For me, the album’s production lands a 9! I wasn’t left desiring anything more. If anything, I felt guilty of gluttony as I overindulged on this ecstasy.

The cohesion of the album is astonishing. Each song proves its competency as it unfolds in a flawless tracklist. Even the singles feel good in the album’s flow.

Now I must say if you’re looking for lyricism. This album is not for you, as the content is hollow. When stripped down the lyrics can feel a bit insipid, yet the melodies and Toliver’s vocal range are kaleidoscopic enough to ignite the dreamlike experience.

While I managed to select a personal TOP 5 from the project, I will say this is an album I enjoy listening to straight through.

TOP 5

  1. + “Xscape”
  2. + “Swangin’ on Westheimer”
  3. + “Crossfaded”
  4. + “Way Bigger”
  5. + “Bogus”

Honorable mentions * “2 a.m.”, “You” (feat. Travis Scott), and Company Pt. 2*

Here’s my cheat sheet based on the vibes:

Hookah/ roll up a paper and vibe:

  • + “5x”
  • + “Company Pt. 2”
  • + “What You Need”
  • + “Flocky Flocky” (feat. Travis Scott)
  • + “X.S.C.A.P.E.”

Brunch with a sprinkle of day party:

  • + “Get Throwed”
  • + “2 a.m.”
  • + “Way Bigger”
  • + “BOGUS”
  • + “Smoke” (feat. H.V.N. & SoFaygo).

“Whine down and call it a night”: Now I am the whine down Queen, it’s nothing for me to dim the lights come 8 p.m. and call it a night. This list is my jam through and through!

  • + “Double Standards”
  • + “Swangin’ On Westheimer” : Something in the production reminded me of Justin Timberlake’s “Until The End of Time” and that memory alone will keep this song high my favor.
  • + “Drugs N Hella Melodies” (feat. Kali Uchis).
  • + “You” (feat. Travis Scott)
  • + “Crossfaded”

If you’re looking for a mindless musical experience, this album is worth your while.

-wordsmithbri

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