Big things in store for SDMA-nominated rapper The Toven

Morrell Coleman, aka The Toven, stands outside of the San Diego Symphony.
(Courtesy Bigger Vibes Inc.)

San Diego hip-hop artist Morrell Coleman, aka The Toven, offers a tale of inspiration on debut album “Bigger Vibes”


As a middle school dropout and former Crips member, Morrell Coleman — who goes by the stage name The Toven — has a lot of potential material for his music.

Yet his involvement in “street and gang life” is rarely documented in The Toven’s discography. Coleman says he doesn’t want to exploit those experiences to gain success in the music industry.

“For me I refuse to take that route, because at the end of the day you’re not really relying on your skills as a music artist, you’re not really being true to music — you’re just saying what you need to say to attract the audience,” Coleman says.

Rather than capitalize on, glorify or promote that lifestyle, Coleman, who was “born and raised in Southeast San Diego,” wants to use his voice to share his journey of redemption — which includes legally expunging his criminal record and going back to school as an adult. In addition to his growing discography, Coleman now holds two associate degrees from Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges.

Although Coleman has been making music since the 1990s, and began his solo music journey in 2012, he just released his debut album last August. Titled “Bigger Vibes,” the 9-track collection is up for a 2021 San Diego Music Award for Best Hip Hop or Rap Album.

The biggest reason for the album’s eight-year delay? High expectations. While Coleman pushes his perfectionism aside to put music out in the form of singles and EPs, he waited to release his debut album until the work met his personal creative and production standards.

SDMA-nominated “Bigger Vibes” is a hip-hop album at its core, but the music also incorporates elements of rock ‘n’ roll — a nod to one of Coleman’s biggest musical influences, Run-DMC. The inspirational lyrics also feature various San Diego references, like on the track “41st Greatness” which chronicles Coleman’s experience growing up on 41st Street in the neighborhood of Mount Hope. And Coleman carries the hometown theme onto his sophomore album “Welcome to San Diego” — released just a few weeks ago — with songs like “La Jolla,” “International Airport” and “Sweet Home San Diego.”

Although Coleman hopes his music reaches the ears of more local listeners, it’s creative development — not fame — that he’s after.

“I’m perfectly fine with the art, the art itself,” Coleman says. “Aside from any riches or anything that comes with it ... if I make the type of album that I can be comfortable with and happy with, that to me is more important than any type of finances.”

Whether he walks away with the SDMA award or not, Coleman will continue to push forward and pave his own path on the San Diego music scene — exemplified on his 2020 track “Walk of Fame”: You don’t have to wait for Hollywood to give you a star.