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The Rise of Don Toliver

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Houston-born rapper Don Toliver shows why he's the cream of the crop.

Photo by: Texas Monthly

I first heard of Don Toliver back in 2016 while still in the advertising world. A few months after I started my own agency, some friends and I had met a record producer in Houston that was about to purchase SugarHill Studios, the oldest and longest running studio in the United States.

Famous artists such as Lightnin' Hopkins, J Cole, Freddy Fender, Beyoncé, Bun B, Slim Thug, Naughty By Nature, George Thorogood, Roger Miller and the Rolling Stones are just some of the names that have recorded at this famous studio. A lot of these same artists launched their careers by recording here. It is considered sacred ground, like standing in front of the Gettysburg battlefield or performing at Madison Square Garden.

Photo by: Houston Chronicle

As we started talking to this record producer, he told us he was always on the lookout for the next big thing. He was already friends with Travis Scott, so he definitely knew if these musical artists had some juice to them. We talked about anything from Pearl Jam to weed production, but one name kept popping back up in all of our conversations – Don Toliver.

“Who is this guy?" my friend asked. Without hesitation, he looked me dead in the eye and said: "the next big thing."

Photo by: Biography Daily

As I started to Google him, the more clear it started to be – this guy is gonna be big. First off, dude has a good sense of fashion. Not only is he rocking the usual Louis Vuitton, Supreme and Gucci things, he can be seen rocking The Hundreds, Mitchell & Ness, John Elliott and Philipp Plein. Not your usual household names, but if you're really into fashion and streetwear, they are big time.

Photo by: Lyrical Lemonade

Next, the guy has a solid work ethic. During an interview with Highsnobiety, he mentioned while working with Travis Scott in Honolulu:

"I wanted to be on that album so bad. I could have killed somebody to be on that album. I was working hard, five or six songs a day. I wasn’t at the pool, I wasn’t at the beach, I wasn’t at the mall, I wasn’t looking at the view, I wasn’t rock climbing, I was in the studio."

Photo by: Cool Accidents

Third, he comes from Houston. Specifically Alief (shoutout to our fellow S.W.A.T fam!); a highly underrated city oozing with talent and not just from the hip-hop/rap scene. Anyone who's anyone in Jazz has come from Houston. People like Jason Moran, Eric Harland, Robert Glasper and Mike Moreno call H-Town their home. Some big names you may not know are from Houston; Mike Dean, DJ Screw and Slim Thug, to just name a few, all pull from Houston's influence to create a unique sound, lyrically or rhythm-wise. Just listen to Toliver's "Heaven or Hell" and you can hear some "chopped and screwed" influence with the slow beats and stop timing. Or throw on the whole Donny Womack album and you'll hear this unique sound inspired by his Houston roots, all of it playing a big part of the soul of his musical identity. Mentioning Robert Horry in his lyrics is just one way he pays homage to his hometown. I mean, the guy was just a few days old when the Rockets won their first championship – that's true H-Town pride.

Photo by: Riot Muse

Overall, we've seen the power of associating yourself with #CactusJack, but Don Toliver can hold his own. Being in the music business for just a few years and having this kind of success isn't all because of Travis, you have to have some goddamn talent too. And Toliver proves it. Houston as a whole has been pumping out some serious talent for decades. Megan Thee Stallion, Don Toliver, Travis Scott, Beyoncé are just a few of the names of artists who never used their parents to leverage their own success. They did it all on their own. Hustling, clawing, scratching and doing whatever they can to excel at their craft. It must be a H-Town thing.

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