City Morgue appear on one of the collectible covers of Revolver's new Spring 2022 issue. Visit our shop for limited-edition colored vinyl and merch.
It's hard to shock people these days — it's not as simple as biting the head off a bat onstage anymore — but when NYC rap-metal duo City Morgue dropped the music video for their 2017 single "SHINNERS 13," they managed to do just that. Among the hyperactive clip's unnerving visuals: a child waving an AK-47 at the camera, a skateboarder grinding on a flaming deck, pit bulls snapping at each other in what looks to be a poorly furnished living room. Then, about a minute and a half in, we see a clearly very real heroin addict shooting up in someone's kitchen while City Morgue's SosMula casually hangs out nearby. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.
The moderators at YouTube shut the video down almost immediately. City Morgue reuploaded it even quicker. And the cycle repeated three times over. "We were fighting for our lives to get that video up," says ZillaKami, SosMula's partner in crime. "We still got a lot of views though." More than 13 million to date, not counting all of the versions that were deep-sixed by YouTube's powers that be.
The band obviously wanted the video to be available for people to watch, but in truth, every single time YouTube removed the clip, it did more to cement City Morgue's reputation as the wildest group in hip-hop than the three-minute cavalcade of depravity ever could. City Morgue were dangerous, unfiltered and unlike anyone else. They were more than a band — they were a phenomenon.
Over the years, ZillaKami and SosMula have worked their asses off to prove they live up to every bit of hype they've received. They've played shows with everyone from rap superstars $uicideboy$ and Denzel Curry to hardcore scene leaders Turnstile and Trash Talk. Their music has gotten even harder and more metallic, culminating in 2021's City Morgue Vol. 3: Bottom of the Barrel. The album draws on sundry influences including DMX, Alice in Chains, Onyx, Title Fight, Tyler, the Creator and, of course, Slipknot, whose song "Spit It Out" City Morgue have frequently covered, and whose frontman Corey Taylor appears, wearing his Iowa-era mask, in a tattoo on ZillaKami's forearm.
As for the duo's image, that hasn't changed much. It's still gritty and gnarly, but SosMula doesn't see it as particularly shocking. "I would describe it like a documentary," he says. "We're just showing the real shit that we live every day. If it's not us, it's the homies, too. We don't do too much illegal shit, but we just document our life. When you see the videos, we do that shit. That's what we do. You see the cars, you see whatever, that's just our life."
IT'S PROBABLY SELF-EXPLANATORY, BUT WHAT DOES THE NAME CITY MORGUE MEAN TO YOU?
ZILLAKAMI It means the morgue in a city. It just sounds cool. It's like what Kurt Cobain said, "My lyrics have no meaning, they just sound cool." That's the name. City Morgue.
IT CLEARLY GOES ALONG WITH YOUR IMAGE AND YOUR VIDEOS.
ZILLAKAMI To be honest, that name, when we hear City Morgue it just fits.
WHEN IT COMES TO TOURS AND SHOWS, DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE BETWEEN PLAYING WITH HIP-HOP GROUPS OR PUNK AND HARDCORE BANDS?
SOSMULA I like to bring both. On the last tour we had Kuttem Reese and N8NOFACE. Kuttem is a rapper from Florida and NOFACE makes punk-type shit. It hits hard.
ZILLAKAMI It's like synth punk.
SOSMULA It's three different worlds. We're in the middle with that shit since we do both. It's fire.
ZILLAKAMI I remember that tour we were supposed to have Vein[.fm]. They're one of my favorite bands, that would have been turnt. I like it when it's a band and then a rapper with us. It's easy. Hardcore bands are really good at performances.
SOSMULA They're the best performers. NOFACE was a crazy performer — I was learning by watching him every night.
ZILLAKAMI His shit is mad raw.
IT'S COOL BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE NOW THERE IS SO MUCH CROSSOVER WITHIN THE CULTURE. LIKE AT HIP-HOP SHOWS, PEOPLE JUST MOSH ALL THE TIME.
SOSMULA Every hip-hop show now they mosh.
ZILLAKAMI I don't even know if that's moshing. I think that's just jumping around in a circle. When you look at a hip-hop pit, that shit is always just closed. Then you go to a hardcore show and the pit is always open with, like, 10 people in it. It's so intense in there that nobody really wants to go in. Nobody's jumping around, people are getting tossed …
SOSMULA There's always a bloody nose. Somebody always gets hurt … Remember that guy that broke his leg in Poland?
ZILLAKAMI At our show people get hurt. It's a little weird mix, where five of those kids go to hardcore shows and really know how to mosh while everybody else is jumping around. Those kids are throwing spin kicks, doing karate in the pit.
SOSMULA In the Atlanta shows, some kid got his nose broken. I seen it, too. Some kid just punched another kid in the face, that shit immediately swelled up, he just walked off. If it gets too crazy, we'll be stopping that shit, too. If someone falls, or if they get too crazy, we'll stop the show and get people water.
ZILLAKAMI It's that barricade. That barricade's a killer.
SOSMULA We try to tell them to take the barricade out, but sometimes they don't listen.
ZILLAKAMI Yo, if they take the barricade out, they get crushed by the stage. It's a lose/lose.
SOSMULA But the barricade is bad because you can really break something on that shit. Your leg gets caught in that shit and it's bad, bro.
ZILLAKAMI That happened at the first Poland show when the kid broke his leg. Everybody knocked down the barricade …
SOSMULA He came back to the next Poland show, too. I was talking to him. He was like, "Yo, I'm the kid that broke his leg."
I SHOOT PHOTOS AT SHOWS A LOT, SO I SPEND A LOT OF TIME BETWEEN THE STAGE AND THE BARRICADE, AND YOU SEE EVERYBODY CRASHING AGAINST IT, GETTING PULLED OUT. IT GETS INTENSE.
ZILLAKAMI It's really the barricade. At a rap show it's a little more dangerous because everybody just wants to be in front. Whereas at a hardcore show, everybody's kinda OK with just standing to the side and watching the pit. I can watch everybody going crazy.
SOSMULA Usually it's the girls who are in the front. It's the girls that get crushed [at rap shows].
ZILLAKAMI Do you see girls at the front at hardcore shows? Never. Because the front is fucking dangerous. People are running onstage and trying to front-flip off and head-surfing, which I like to do, but I can't do it too much.
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS ARE AT LEAST NOTICING WHAT'S GOING ON, PAYING ATTENTION TO MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE ARE SAFE.
SOSMULA It can be hot too, so we make sure to give out water. The homies onstage are watching, too.
ZILLAKAMI That's really what saves us. I feel like if it was just us all the time, we wouldn't see people passing out and shit. I don't even look at the crowd when I perform, I look over them. I can't see you. Somebody could be asking me for water right here [points directly in front of him] and I can't see you, I'm looking over there. I can't look at y'all while I perform. It bothers me. Makes me feel weird to stare at your eyes. Freaky.
IN TERMS OF CROWD REACTION, WHEN DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT'S BEEN A GOOD SHOW?
ZILLAKAMI You're going to know in literally three songs if shit is turnt.
SOSMULA The first song. We come out to "NECK BRACE," that sets the tone pretty much every time.
ZILLAKAMI You're going to know if the crowd is good on the first song.
SOSMULA 'Cause that first song is our most turnt.
YOU JUST CAME OFF OF PLAYING ROLLING LOUD OUT IN CALIFORNIA, HOW WAS IT?
ZILLAKAMI It was OK. I was sick, fighting through it.
PLAYING SHOWS WHEN YOU'RE SICK KINDA SUCKS.
ZILLAKAMI It's crazy, you're trying not to shit yourself. Literally trying not to shit yourself when you jump.
SO … YOU EVER SHIT YOURSELF AT A SHOW?
ZILLAKAMI [Laughs] You know what's funny? There was this one show where I had on a red jumpsuit. We had an intermission, and I came back in a gray jumpsuit … That's what happened. I had the runs and I thought I could turn it up. I jumped up in the air and it was over for me.
DO YOU GUYS LISTEN TO THE SAME TYPE OF MUSIC, OR DO YOU HAVE DIFFERENT TASTES?
ZILLAKAMI We definitely listen to different music. But also the same music … so it's weird.
SOSMULA He'll be playing shit [and] all the shit that I fuck with I'll be Shazaming right on the spot. So, I'll be having this whole playlist through Shazam. I listen to more rap, but I listen to everything, too.
ZILLAKAMI You'll play songs [that I don't know], especially Young Dolph. I didn't know shit about Young Dolph. I usually don't listen to rap, or I don't search for rap. If someone plays it, and I like it, it happens.
IN ADDITION TO DOLPH, IS THERE ONE ARTIST THAT YOU'VE SHOWN EACH OTHER THAT YOU END UP BEING SUPER INTO?
SOSMULA It's not really like showing me, it's more like when we're together he'll play some shit, then I'll play some shit. And I'll be like, "That shit's fire, I gotta download it." It's not like, "Yo, you heard this shit?" Unless it's something crazy like a video, I'll send it.
ZILLAKAMI Usually it's just a one-off song. I'll be like, "Gimme the aux." We get into aux battles, everybody trying to play a good-ass song.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HOW WHERE YOU GREW UP, NEW YORK CITY AND LONG ISLAND, INFLUENCED YOUR MUSICAL TASTES?
SOSMULA I grew up in Spanish Harlem, it's the hood. I grew up in the projects. We pretty much just listened to rap in the projects, you feel me? I grew up listening to everything, literally everything. Dipset a lot, State Property, DMX, shit like that. I could go on. My mom played a bit of everything. She played a lot of Bob Marley, a lot of Deftones, Nirvana, Manson. As far as rap, I listened to everything. Even some old R&B, shit like that.
ZILLAKAMI Long Island has a really big hardcore scene, that was basically all I listened to for a while. Obviously, my parents are basically hip-hop historians, so if you play any old song I'll know all the lyrics. You can play Jadakiss … I'll know all the lyrics to it. But my personal taste was really hardcore, grunge. Like Gorilla Biscuits, Title Fight, Alice in Chains …
[LOOKING AT ZILLAKAMI'S COREY TAYLOR TATTOO] I GUESS I SHOULD ASK ABOUT SLIPKNOT. YOU LIKE 'EM? WHY DO YOU LIKE 'EM SO MUCH?
ZILLAKAMI [Oozing sarcasm] They're OK. Corey's an OK singer. His range is OK. If I really put my mind to it, I could definitely make some better music than that.
HE DID THE INTRO TO YOUR SOLO ALBUM, DOG BOY. HOW DID THAT GO?
ZILLAKAMI I called him and I was like, "Yo, what you doing?" And he was like, "I'm working out." So, I said, "You should listen to this band called Vein. They're really cool." He was like, "I'll check 'em out." Then I said, "You know what I need right now, randomly? I need you to do the intro to my tape." He was like, "Gimme five minutes." Then five minutes later he sent me a couple of options for the intro. But I really hit him up to tell him Vein was a cool band, which is mad funny. It was mad random.
HOW'D YOU MEET AND HOW'D YOU GET HIS NUMBER?
ZILLAKAMI Fuck, that's a really good question. How did I get Corey Taylor's number? I don't remember. I have his number; I have Clown's number. I don't remember how I got those. Me and Corey were going to make music for a while, but he's always on tour. When he's off tour, I'm on tour. We're never on the same wavelength.
IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT CITY MORGUE VOL. 3 THAT YOU'RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?
ZILLAKAMI Not too much. I think that's my only critique I have of Vol. 3. It doesn't have one standout thing where you're like, "This is the spectacular part." It's just very good at everything, you know? But it didn't have that one spectacular thing. Like, Vol. 1 had the best delivery with lyrics and attitude. That rawness. Vol. 2 has the best production, hands down. And [City Morgue's 2020 mixtape] Toxic Boogaloo ...
SOSMULA Toxic Boogaloo is my favorite tape.
HOW HAS YOUR PROCESS CHANGED OVER ALL THOSE RECORDS? HAVE YOU LEARNED STUFF ABOUT EACH OTHER AND HOW CERTAIN THINGS WORK SUPER WELL?
ZILLAKAMI It got easier. In a way, that's also a problem, especially if it gets too easy and you get in your comfort zone. That's why Vol. 3 is really good at everything, because we know how to make it. I feel like we need to do something we don't know how to do now. Make some weird shit.
CREDITS: Lighting: Amy Jackson and Johnny Tang; Digital Tech: James Joseph O'Brien; Grooming and SFX: Paige Campbell; Styling: The Cannon Media Group; styling credits: SosMula's and ZillaKami's jackets: House of Bartholomew at the Confessional Showroom