Travis Scott’s protege releases debut album with distinct, new sound

by Johann Derek Oribello, Senior Staff Writer

After a bombastic feature on Travis Scott’s record label posse album, “Jackboys,” bustling rapper and singer Don Toliver makes a splash with the release of his full-length debut “Heaven or Hell” on March 13.  

Seen as a protégé to Travis Scott ever since his signing to the artist’s label, Cactus Jack Records, Toliver carves a lane of his own as he combines the sinister, haunting production of Scott’s signature sound with his distinct, high-octave vocals. 

The result is a dynamic sounding album filled to the brim with catchy melodies and lively production that has the potential to turn up arena-sized concerts. With a 12-song tracklist and a run-time of 35 minutes, Toliver does not miss as he serves up a short but hard-hitting introduction to his artistry. 

“Heaven or Hell” begins with the titular track where Toliver delivers the duality of his newfound success as a music artist. His meteoric rise contrasts with his struggles of his hardened past while he boasts about both his lavish excesses and sins. As he croons, “I know it gets hotter/ I want to smoke some,” it’s clear to see that his mind is headed towards the latter. 

The album then explores the descent into a sinner’s lifestyle with the highly anticipated second track, “Euphoria,” featuring Travis Scott and R&B singer Kaash Paige. Ever since being placed into an Instagram video promoting Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic line, fans have been clamoring for the release of the song. 

“Euphoria” lived up to its high expectations with stellar guest verses from both Toliver’s mentors, Scott and Paige. The song title itself perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere set with angelic keyboards in the background and an arrangement of synths playing in waves. 

Toliver’s high-pitched voice accentuates the dreamlike trance of the song as he sings, “I’m drowning in euphoria,” before the track transitions into one of the highlights of the entire project. 

The next song, “Cardigan,” immediately stands out as a premium track with refined production and vocals. Toliver’s melodious vocals synergize with the instrumental’s rhythm as he sings with charisma, “You be on my back like a cardigan.” With a catchy chorus that keeps the track cohesive, this song is bound to have heads nodding. 

Another outstanding cut from the album is the song “No Photos.” The grim, bass-heavy beat gives an eerie ambiance, especially with Toliver laughing hauntingly in the background before heading into the chorus. 

Production-wise, the instrumental is reminiscent of Metro Boomin’s signature dark trap sound as the bass reverberates loudly, juxtaposing Toliver’s smooth, auto-tuned vocals. Toliver’s melodic bounce in his delivery keeps the album’s momentum up before concluding with his breakthrough hit, “No Idea.” 

“No Idea” first blew up on TikTok which resulted in the rising artist landing a spot on the Billboard Hot 100’s chart. The song’s virality does not come as a surprise due to its noteworthy lack of explicit lyrics that helped keep its constant presence on radio airwaves. 

Concluding his debut on the track that first gained him prominence proved to be an excellent choice stylistically. Overall, the album cuts to the chase as a strong introduction to Toliver as an artist. The rich production paired with his distinct, melodious vocals makes him a standout artist to keep an eye on in the future.