Good news/bad news time! The good news is that Don Toliver is a better singer than IceJJFish on “Love Sick,” but that’s because he doesn’t spend the entirety of performing in an ear splitting tuneless falsetto. The bad news is that we have two things that match up perfectly to Fish — good production and insubstantial lyrics. With a laundry list of producers on “Time Heals All” (206Derek, Allen Ritter, BRYVN and Matt Spatola) I don’t know who to credit for the bass thump and airy melody, but I do know who to credit for the “rap.”
“Want me to creep around or keep around? You gotta be on your toes
You said you love me and it shows
You were backstage at my shows
I want you back, yeah, you don’t know”
The title of the song doesn’t even make sense when paired with his bars. Don Toliver is clearly interested in strip clubs and one night stands. Who is being healed by the passage of time here? Maybe it’s the ceftriaxone healing him internally. “Leather Coat” can’t even use that excuse. It could have been a clever euphemism for a jimmy hat, but instead it’s a reference to how he creeps around (again) that only gets mentioned once in the second’s second half. It’s not the hook, the chorus, or even a recurring topic. Calling it “Callin’ For Your Favor” would have been more apt.
I’m constantly left wondering on “Love Sick” why I should listen to another rapper who doesn’t rap but sings instead. Let’s rewind a bit though – Don Toliver had the rocket strapped to his back after appearing on labelmate Travis Scott’s album “Astroworld.” It would be a stretch to say I was the album’s biggest fan, but five years after reviewing it I’d take it over anything here. It feels like everyone involved was working overtime to give Don Toliver commercial credibility, which leads to incredibly weird collaborations like Future and Justin Bieber on “Private Landing.” Spoiler alert — Future is the best performer on the track. Like Travis Scott he sounds better over time as the artists who come after him get weaker and weaker.
It’s harder to find songs on this album that don’t feature guest stars than ones that do (9 with, 7 without). Wizkid, Lil Durk, Charlie Wilson, TisaKorean, Kali Uchis, James Blake, et cetera. One can’t help but look at the carefully curated list of cameos and feel like Don Toliver is being pushed as a new version of The Weeknd, but he’s not Canadian and I don’t think he’ll ever be famous enough to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl. “Do It Right” is unintentionally hilarious because it doesn’t. As much as people knocked LL back in the day for “Doin’ It,” his song evoked a sexy feel thanks not only to Grace Jones and LeShaun but his cocksure swagger. The “Don” sounds like a simp and a wimp, stating “I ain’t know why I fuck with you/gonna end up falling in love with you.” Ouch.
Let me be blunt — I take on new albums like “Love Sick” out of what I feel is an unspoken obligation between the readers and myself. I could swim all day in the comfortable confines of the classics, but that would not only leave me hopelessly out of touch with the constantly evolving world of hip-hop, it would rob you of the opportunity to learn which artists of this generation are worth your time. Don Toliver isn’t. His album is incredibly well polished, but the gleam of his ice is an illusion, as these diamonds are nothing more than cubic zirconias.