When Travis Scott’s Astroworld dropped on Friday (Aug. 3), it came with a star-studded guest list that included Frank Ocean, Drake, The Weeknd, 21 Savage, Swae Lee and more. But it was an unknown artist named Don Toliver who ended up stealing the spotlight with his standout feature on “Can’t Say.”
Hailing from Houston, Toliver was one of the many artists Scott flew to Honolulu to finish Astroworld. Footage of the pair vibing in the studio circulated on Travis Scott fanpage on Twitter, but it was until Toliver’s guest verse on “Can’t Say” that social media started buzzing about the 24-year-old newcomer. The attention couldn’t have come at a better time for Toliver, who released his debut mixtape, Donny Womack the day before Astroworld arrived.
Named after the late R&B and soul singer Bobby Womack, the mixtape gives curious fans an in-depth look at the range of Toliver’s talent. He mixes elements of hip-hop and R&B in a style he calls “Trap&B” and speaks on the topics of love, miscommunication and heartbreak. “I want people to vibe and catch the wave or just rage out,” he says during a phone interview. “Do whatever you feel, don’t hold anything in, or hold anything back listening to this music.” Below, Toliver tells Billboard about his new mixtape, Bobby Womack’s influence and what it was like recording with Scott in Hawaii.
?You’re heavily influenced by Bobby Womack. What were some of your other inspirations?
Sade, Dom Kennedy, Travis Scott, Teddy Pendergrass. Of course all the greats, but those are just my top choices that I super rock with.
What made you take hip-hop seriously as a career?
I love music and everything that revolves around it. I’ve been musically inclined since I was young and feel like music just moves me, man. I move off the music and its vibrations. I’m just one of those guys that’s into what’s really going on.
Everyone is talking about that feature on Astroworld. How did that come together?
We linked up through a mutual friend. Trav and I just vibed. We caught that Honolulu wave! [Laughs] You can call me Donolulu, you know what I’m saying? That’s all that was.
What was your experience in Hawaii like?
It was Donolulu! It was swag, all swag. I want to tell you one thing though: Honolulu is beautiful. The vibe out there was incredible. I made a ton of records out there with Travis. Astroworld is out, and it’s lit.
What is it about Hawaii that has artists tap into a certain musical space?
I don’t know what it is about Hawaii, man. But I can tell you this: I was on an island. First and foremost, I was on an island surrounded by water, and all I could think about was that microphone. Add that with the Cactus Jack vibe, you know what it is.
So the secret is the Hawaiian scenery? That helped you focus?
I feel like me wanting to be on Astroworld helped me focus more. Me wanting to be a part of whatever Travis Scott had going on made me focus a lot more.
Tell me about your debut mixtape Donny Womack. What’s the concept behind the project?
Donny Womack is a spin off Bobby Womack. The one who did it, came and conquered. So I’m Donny Womack. It’s a lot of soul, a lot of vibe and a lot of energy. It’s beautiful. That’s where I’m coming from with that.
Out of all the great soul artists, what makes Bobby Womack one of your favorites?
Bobby Womack is just my favorite because as a youngin’ my parents always listened to him. I couldn’t understand it the way I wanted to understand it until I got older. Bobby Womack is a genius. He’s like a mad scientist — he goes crazy. So to understand that shit and how hip he was to what’s really going on out here, it’s special.
How long has this project been in the works?
Donny Womack has been in the works as early as six, seven months ago. Probably longer than that. But you know, I just kept working on it. Basically, I was working trying to get everything out. That was my main focus, but I’ve been working on it. I had music ready, but I just kept working trying to critique it and get it right.
What does it mean to live up to the Houston legends like Bun B and Pimp C?
It means the world to me. My vibe right now is on a hundred thousand especially being a young legend in Texas. I feel impeccable. I feel bulletproof right now like it’s crazy. It’s Texas bro.
With the project dropping the day before Astroworld, people who didn’t know who you were are now checking for you. What’s going through your mind?
I’m in Astroworld right now. My vibe is on another planet. I’m actually in Astroworld, I’m here. So I’m just on a whole other level and planet right now. I don’t know what it is, but I’m there.