Virginia rapper and producer, Tyler Donavan, pulled from our Write for Relief journal companion to speak a little more to his journey. We all know the importance of creating relief within our everyday lives. Sometimes making long-term goals are a little harder to see while in the thick of it. Sometimes our overall well-being relies heavily on self-talk and taking our days minute by minute. Creative relief is leaning on the tools that we have to make our days that much better. In Tyler’s case, it's been writing, music, and being vocal with his community about his immediate needs. He was so gracious in curating the RELIEF #blkcreatives Spotify playlist to get us through and back on our BS. 

What’s something you’re currently unlearning in order to Start creating your own opportunities? – Write for Relief

Unlearning perfectionism has been pivotal for me in forging my own path. I used to strive for musical perfection based on comparison to my idols, which led to me delaying projects and losing sight of the original inspiration in the process. My album ‘GASPING4AIR,’ which was released last year, was never about proving I was the best or that I was on par with those that I looked up to; it’s about being true to my journey in defeating self-sabotage. 


What’s a journey without a few bumps in the road? Following emergency spinal surgery in 2018 that jeopardized my ability to walk, I defied the odds. Amidst doubts and fears, I pressed on, continued to create and release music, leading to memorable performances at the Broadberry in Richmond, VA, and even gracing the stage at the 2023 Something in the Water festival, founded by Pharrell Williams.


In the last six years since my surgery, the fear and doubt in my head had never been louder. Not having ample funding, lacking a full team, and navigating performances from a seated position (unheard of for a rapper) were all major mental roadblocks. There were days when I wanted to quit, doubting if music was even truly my purpose anymore. But through prayer, meditation, and the unwavering support of my community—especially in the Hampton Roads area—I persevered. This persistence paid off. Since its release in August 2023, ‘GASPING4AIR’ has become my most successful release, earning a local music award and culminating in a sold-out  headlining performance in Norfolk, VA. 


The best decision I made was letting go of the illusion of perfection due to adversity. Even now, facing a recent diagnosis of congestive heart failure, I’m excited to continue growing as an artist and as a person who knows how to roll with the punches. The Bible tells the story of the children of Israel following a cloud (Numbers 9:15-23), which represents – God’s word, His direction and His purpose. Looking both back on my journey and forward to what’s ahead, I’m grateful that I never stopped following my cloud. Despite an imperfect path, I know from experience that the blessings will continue to rain down as a reward for taking those steps of faith.


Click below to listen to RELIEF curated by Tyler Donavan