It's easy to get overwhelmed by the debauchery, the bouncing, fishnetted ass, the pills crushed and snuffed with whiskey handles, and the dangerously dangled firearms in City Morgue's music videos — all of which have quickly made "trap-metal" duo one of the most notorious and controversial new acts around — but truthfully, those things will never define the souls of ZillaKami and SosMula. Yes, it certainly ensconces their aesthetic with a certain blackheart euphoria (as the best grimdark party music often does,) but spend any time with the two principal members of City Morgue, and you'll discover a pair of surprisingly likable, smart and inquisitive kids.
It's an admittedly odd thing to realize and attempt to rectify at a moment when they're actively brandishing rocket launchers in music videos and getting arrested at the airport on the way to SXSW, but the two's enthusiasm for video games, pro wrestling and Slipknot reveals a much different side to them. As the hip-hop duo with the shock-rock attitude threatens to take over tonight's Thrasher Death Match show in Austin — if Zilla can make it — here are highlights from our recent interviews.
WHAT WAS YOUR MUSICAL DIET OUTSIDE OF HIP-HOP GROWING UP?
I'm an extreme Slipknot fan. Down to the history I know Slipknot. I cover "Spit It Out" every show. Also "Eyeless." Those are two of my favorite songs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK DREW YOU TO SLIPKNOT GROWING UP?
I have no clue. I think it was because I was little and they wore masks. They were creepy and they wore masks and Corey Taylor's voice was mad heavy. I also liked Behemoth. I liked so much shit. Anything that was nu-metal I liked. I liked Korn a lot.
YOUR MUSIC NOW HARKENS BACK TO NU-METAL. DO YOU SEE YOUR MUSIC THAT WAY? AS A REVIVAL IN ANY SENSE?
One-hundred percent. That's what it's meant to be. It's more of a modern take on it. It's more trap, more 808s and hi-hats.
YOU NAME-DROP DOLPH ZIGGLER ON ONE OF YOUR SONGS. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AS A WRESTLING FAN.
Yeah, there's a couple of wrestlers that I fuck with. I could've said Mick Foley, too. Or Rob Van Dam. Rob Van Dam would've probably made the most sense for the song.
YOU GUYS SEEM VERY AESTHETICALLY DRIVEN TO ME IN YOUR MUSIC. IT FEELS LIKE YOU'RE REALLY TRYING TO CREATE A WORLD. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU ASPIRE TOWARDS?
Yeah, that's exactly it. We're trying to create a world. Because if you don't have a world, you don't have a cult. Our world is still being crafted right now. Nobody knows what it feels like.
THAT'S GOTTA BE WEIRD, RIGHT? HOW FAST ALL OF THIS HAS HAPPENED FOR YOU.
Yeah, it happens fast and then you change as a person. Like me, I'm into motorcycles now. I'm a motorcycle guy now. Or I'm into cowboys and western movies. You're dressing like a cowboy and you're like, "I don't know what my world is." I switch what I like every couple months. So it'll probably change again in a couple more months.
BUT YOU WERE ALWAYS INTO HEAVINESS.
To be honest, I was always a grunge kinda person. Like, I love Alice in Chains and Nirvana. I was always into Slipknot, but then I got into bands like Soundgarden. That's where I'm at right now.
YOU WERE ALWAYS LISTENING TO RAP, THOUGH, RIGHT?
It was more rock-to-rap. I was listening to people like Durst, and from there I started listening to, like, Method Man. I liked that and it pushed me down a more rap feel.
I KNOW YOU'RE A FAN OF THE VIDEO GAME DARK SOULS. WHAT DREW YOU INTO THAT?
Dark Souls is, like, a heavy-metal video game. It's the difficulty and the aesthetics. I don't know what the fuck is going on in Dark Souls. You understand it, but you can't explain it to anybody. It's mad cool. I think that's what people think of me. Fans understand me, but when someone asked, "Explain Zillakami to me, explain what kind of music he makes," they're like, "I don't know." You can't really put into words.
IS THERE ANY PART OF YOU THAT ENJOYS SCARING PEOPLE?
Yeah. Me walking around is just me trying to get on other people's nerves. It's fun. It takes people out of their comfort zone.
SO WHAT WERE YOU LISTENING TO GROWING UP?
Everything! My favorite song to this day is motherfucking "Wonderwall" by Oasis. I performed that shit for a talent show in the 4th grade. I grew up listening to Manson, Deftones, Bob Marley, James Brown. Even old shit like Biggie and Tupac. I loved all of that. As I got older, though, it was definitely rap music.
SO WHEN DID YOU START RAPPING?
I was like 13 or 14, but I really didn't start taking it seriously until I met Zilla. So about two years ago. I definitely wanted to be a rapper when I was on the streets, but I didn't know what to do with music until I met P [Zilla's older brother].
IT'S PRETTY UNIQUE THAT YOU AND ZILLA CONNECTED BECAUSE THERE AREN'T A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT SHARE YOUR TASTE OF TRAP RAP AND HEAVY METAL. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO MEET SOMEONE WHO TOTALLY FELT YOU, IN TERMS OF THE MUSIC YOU WANTED TO MAKE?
That shit was so natural. We just clicked bro. I was in jail, and I already knew about him. I was doing 15 [months] and was talking to P every day. Right when I was about to come home P was like, "My brother's rapping," so I met Zilla my first day home from jail. We've literally chilled every day from that first day. We became best friends. That guy is like my brother at this point. We're family. We started writing together the first two days, and the third day we hit the studio. He already had a vision for the sound. Everyone calls it "trap metal," but we don't really like to call it that.
We all like the same shit. I like metal, I like rap, I like trap, I like rock shit, I like hood shit, I like gangster shit, and that's pretty much what City Morgue is. We like everything.
IT'S CRAZY TO THINK HOW QUICKLY YOUR LIFE HAS CHANGED. I MEAN, YOU WENT FROM BEING LOCKED UP TO BEING IN ONE OF THE MOST HYPED RAP GROUPS ON THE PLANET. WHAT'S THAT FELT LIKE FOR YOU?
It's unbelievable, man. When I was in the streets I was always like, "I'm gonna make it in this music shit. I don't know how, but I'm gonna figure out a way." I know it's gonna get crazier, too. It's gonna get way better. We're about to drop our solo projects next. Last year I was living in my mother's bedroom. Now I live in Soho. Well, not in Soho, but a couple blocks away from Soho.
YOU ALWAYS PUT AN INTERESTING SPIN ON YOUR BARS. LIKE, YOU'RE THE ONLY RAPPER I'M AWARE OF WHO'S ABLE TO THREATEN PEOPLE WITH A BOB THE BUILDER REFERENCE. HOW DO YOU CONSTRUCT YOUR RHYMES?
Basically, with Bob the Builder — a tool is like a gun. So like, "I got the big tool." When I rap, sometimes I try to think of things in cartoons. Like a cartoon character. "I'm Bob the Builder, bitch, with a big tool." I've got the biggest gun ever.
ZILLA IS 19, BUT HE SEEMS LIKE AN OLD SOUL IN SOME WAYS. DO YOU PICK UP ON THAT?
Definitely, he's definitely an old soul. He's mad real. He's so musically inclined. A real smart kid.
YOU GUY TOURED EUROPE NOT TOO LONG AGO. WAS THAT YOUR FIRST TIME IN EUROPE?
Yeah, though I was born in Brazil and came to America when I was two. But that was the last time I was out of the country. That tour was so crazy. Those fans were bananas. We headlined it. We didn't expect it. I was overwhelmed. Every show was sold out. Every show was fucking crazy. I'm talking crazy. Mosh pits, every show someone broke their foot, their leg, their ankle in the mosh. That's how you know it's a great show.