Heaven Or Hell
“Well, what brings you to church this evening?” Don Toliver queries on the title track of his 2020 project, Heaven Or Hell. “Fighting love, fighting hate, or you’re fighting your demons?” It’s an age-old question that has perplexed humanity since the dawn of time, a deep-rooted struggle between good and bad, light and dark—heaven and hell. This dichotomous balance lies at the center of Toliver’s breakthrough album. While the 2018 mixtape Donny Womack is the Houston artist’s first extended project, Heaven Or Hell stands as his official introduction to the world as a solo act. Before this album, though, came the Travis Scott ASTROWORLD cut, “CAN’T SAY.” On that song, tucked near the end of Scott’s 2018 opus, Toliver flexed his vocal chops in a way that has become his signature. His style of singing—fixed in its high timbre but tonally malleable and especially distinct—was compelling enough to catch Scott’s attention, influencing the rap megastar to extend Toliver a coveted invitation to his Hawaii ASTROWORLD recording sessions and eventually sign him to his Cactus Jack label. Scott has since revealed that “CAN’T SAY” is a Don Toliver original, while other songs created during that music camp made their way onto Heaven Or Hell: The nonchalant yet adoring “Cardigan” and the amped-up, narrative-driven “After Party” led the way as singles, while the Sheck Wes-assisted “Spaceship” furthered Scott’s Cactus Jack agenda. With a fairytale-like background, Don Toliver’s album unfurls in a way that highlights his range as a singer and storyteller. On “Euphoria,” he croons intimately alongside Scott and Dallas artist Kaash Paige about his romantic escapades and how they fit into his life. “No Idea,” a viral hit that took on a life of its own thanks to social media, sees Toliver ruminating about a seductive night in. True to its title, Heaven Or Hell features Toliver vacillating between the highs and lows of courtship: he scolds a potential partner about the value of his precious time (“Wasted”), while also taking a beat to pine for her presence (“Company”). His moods may shift, and his need for attention may wax and wane, but Don Toliver masterfully keeps his emotions in check throughout his great quest for love and acceptance.