Days before ASTROWORLD impacted, we got a different taste of what Travis Scott's Cactus Jack imprint had to offer with Donny Womack, a 13-track mixtape from Travis' newest protégé and fellow Houston native, Don Toliver. The project lives up to the famous surname attached to it: It's a collection of soul-infused meditations on women, relationships, and burgeoning fame that skirts right along the edge of genre boundaries. Toliver croons his ass off, but there's no doubt that he owes his sound to his hometown's hip-hop influences, as well.
Toliver kept the momentum going with a scene-stealing appearance on ASTROWORLD standout "Can't Say," earning himself a permanent cameo appearance on the company tour, and placement on a song that has since gone platinum (while not even being an official single), and a position as a certified artist to watch.
Now, he's ready to re-up for 2019. Last week, Toliver dropped a stray loosie, "Best You Had," and today brings us the official release of his new song and accompanying video "No Idea." With earworm melodies and a slowed-down Houston affectation paired with a dark, slinking beat, it's everything you want from a Don Toliver song, while also showcasing his growing talents as a writer. "I'm finally giving the people this side that I've been wanting to give them," he says.
Complex hopped on the phone with Toliver to reflect on his 2018 and discuss how "No Idea" previews his 2019.
Congrats on "Can't Say" going platinum, G.
Yooo, appreciate you so much, man. It's so crazy for me, man. It's like too crazy.
How surreal is it?
Oh, super surreal, bro. It's just like a big turnaround in my life, from where I was to where I'm at right now. I'm definitely grateful and feeling real grace, for real.
What was it like performing it on both legs of the ASTROWORLD tour?
Astronomical. Crazy. I ain't never felt so much energy in one room in my life.
"I'm a Gemini. I believe that I have different sides, and I pick and choose which one I feel is right."
Last year, we got Donny Womack and "Can't Say." Now, it looks like you're getting your 2019 started for real with "No Idea." What can you tell me about the vibe that you're going for on both the song and the video?
"No Idea" is just basically like another universe for Womack, you know what I'm saying? Coming straight off of the ASTROWORLD trip and Donny Womack, it especially feels like another universe. Just me kind of expressing my thoughts on where I'm at right now and touching back on events in the past, as well. And the visuals, they just don't give you a vibe on how you really need to feel or how you really need to look at the song as a whole, you know?
Right. Is the takeaway from the video that everything that's been happening is kind of disorienting and you're struggling to catch up a little bit?
I want to say, the theme of the video is basically me going back down a memory lane type situation, and it kind of fast forwards to right now. When you listen to the song, and as you get deep into it, you start to figure out. I'm kind of ranting on what's going on right now, you know?
You mentioned this being a different universe. Is this going to lead us into a new project.
This is definitely opening the gates for the new project. Yes sir.
Donny Womack was its own thing, and it was fire. In describing this new world as a universe, how do you plan to build off of what Donny Womack set up but also differ from it?
The way I say I am building up on Donny Womack is I'm still Don Toliver, so Donny Womack is just another side of what I have going on. I'm a Gemini. I believe that I have different sides, and I pick and choose which one I feel is right for the right track and right for the right mood, even in visuals. So, Donny Womack is basically like a segment. His segment is really a reborn and reincarnated Don Toliver that's really giving you what I wanted to give you back in Donny Womack. But you're finally getting that segment, if that makes sense. I'm finally giving the people this side that I've been wanting to give them, you know?
Yeah, it's just like another platform of me, like another vibe of what I've got going on.
Okay, and so then as we go forward, when you have a couple projects, is it going to be a situation where you have different characters that you tap into a little bit and different modes?
Yeah, it's basically like that. I'm just tapping into different vibes and different eras and genres. Donny Womack is still resonating with the soul era. I put something new out, on the new album that I'm going to get into and talk about, but it's just Gemini. It's basically the whole thing. It's the back piece of what I'm thinking about right as far as me just transforming as an artist. It's a couple different sides.
Does the new project have a title yet?
I don't really want to speak on the title or anything right now, but definitely this is a chapter. "No Idea" is definitely the first chapter, the introduction, the real introduction to the chapter, you know?
Travis is something of an album artist, and he made sure to always delineate the categories of his projects. Are you the same? Would you call this project a tape or an album?
Honestly, in the back of my head, it really doesn't matter, because every body of work that I'm going to come with is going to be like album or whatever type of material—the best that I can possibly come with. So yeah, I'm definitely calling this an album, and that's how I'm looking at it. That's how I'm moving.
That's what's up. Is there anybody you want to get in on the studio with, whether for this or just features on their stuff?
I've definitely got to get some real heavy work in with Pharrell soon. Got to tap back into those early 2000 days. You know I need that N.E.R.D. vibe in my life, man. And I definitely want to tap in with some of the real, real, real legends.
What are your overall thoughts right now about Houston music?
It's beautiful, man. I learn every day that Houston is so ahead of its time, and Houston is so on its own island. People take from our culture left and right, but the one thing I do get from it lately is that we are our own entity, man. We are definitely above what's been taking place lately. I feel like it just gives me a lot of good juju, man. A lot of good vibes. When I think about Screw and I think about Mo and I think about Pat, Hawk, and everybody to this day that I listen to... My dad, everybody. It's crazy.
You're heading into this whole new phase and you're on a platinum song now. You've got the new project coming up. What kind of advice has Travis imparted to you about taking on that new era?
I mean, I feel like there's nothing new that Travis would have to tell me recently. The one thing that always resonated with me is him telling me—and everybody else around me as a whole—that the game is fixing to pipe up, and you know what I'm saying? That's just what it is. That's just all I keep in my head. We fixing to pipe up, you know what I'm saying? That's it. We fixing to turn it up. Ain't no turning down.