After completing high school in Salt Lake City and moving to Greeley, Havea “Harvey” Tukutau, aka Rev. da IV, was so eager to start making music that he began cold-calling music producers. A huge Chance the Rapper fan, he contacted every producer and engineer who worked on Chance’s first three releases. Grammy-nominated producer Professor Fox took the bait, and in 2017, Rev. met him in Chicago, where they recorded his 2018 single “Better Days.” It was the first time Tukutau had ever set foot in a recording studio.
"Thinking back to it, I sound crazy," the now-22-year-old Rev. laughs. "But at the time, I was just so hungry. I just wanted to work. And I didn't know who to hit up in Colorado, so I thought, let me hit up these guys who I know can make the sound I want to make."
Passionate about music from a young age, Tukutau was born in Denver to immigrant parents from the South Pacific island of Tonga. His rap moniker is a nod to the family business: “My great grandpa was a pastor, my grandfather was a pastor, my father is also a pastor, so if I followed in their footsteps, I would be the fourth generation.”
Rev. mostly put his rap career on pause after graduating from high school and going to college, but he dropped the infectious single “Scrunchie Gang” this past January to signal his return to music. And on May 25, he released his debut EP, a four-track project titled Oh YAWP!.
Oh YAWP! Is a coming-of-age story, focused on Rev.’s high school years with his tokos, a Tongan word for brothers or friends.
“The EP takes place back in those days where me and my tokos were going around ditching class, causing trouble and being youthful. I feel like this project shows my youthfulness as an artist, as well,” he says.
But like an early Chance the Rapper, Rev. da IV turns a critical eye to the usual mainstream rap fodder of drinking, smoking and sex. Instead of glorifying the fun he had partying with his friends, he contemplates the bigger picture: the damages and consequences of their lifestyle and their eagerness to be adults, complicated by a reluctance to grow up.
Inspired by contemporary Chicago rap mainstays like Smino and Saba, Rev. taps into a powerful nostalgia that transports listeners back to their own reckless youth.
"If you listen to 'Better Days,' that sounds a lot like Chance — you'll definitely hear that off the bat," Rev. explains. "But newer stuff...that inspiration definitely came from Smino, Saba, still those Chicago guys like that. And that Smino, Saba type is definitely where the sound is going, as far as future records go."
Favoring real instruments over synths and drumbeats, the album is mellow yet bouncy, playful and sunny but still dripping with attitude and swagger. Oh YAWP! could easily become the summer-party soundtrack of choice...if only parties were happening.
Rev. da IV’s nasally voice risks putting listeners off, but it adds distinctive personality to his bars and his vocals, raising him above the fold. His bravado is undercut by the anxiety of adolescence, as when he croons, “I don’t know how to talk to girls” on the EP’s third track, “idk.”
Much like Chance the Rapper when he dropped Acid Rap, Rev. da IV’s charm comes from the familiarity of his experiences. Given that the tracks are set around 2014, Oh YAWP! is targeted toward younger rap fans, but it contains sentiments about growing up that anybody could recognize.
Toward the end of the EP, Rev. finds himself growing apart from his tokos as they drop out of high school and he prepares for college.
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“I knew what situation I was in," he recalls. "I knew that once I was out of high school, I had to grow up — which, I’ve never been a fan of the idea. But they all wanted to, and it was just something that I didn’t understand. It was a scary thing for me to think about growing up, think about being in the real world."
But even as Rev. contemplates heavy topics like identity and belonging in songs like the final track, “Counterfeit,” he maintains the upbeat energy that makes Oh YAWP! an easy listen.
Though at times the EP feels rough around the edges — and it could stand to be longer — it’s a promising debut for Rev. da IV. Happily, he's scheduled to drop more music soon. Oh YAWP! is the first in a four-part series that will culminate in Rev.’s first full-length album. His next release, which chronicles his transition from Salt Lake City back to Colorado, is set to drop in early September.