Words by Jenna Depasquale
As the amount of rap arising from the SoundCloud scene has declined in favor of budding hyperpop stardom and the pop punk renaissance, you can make the premature conclusion that boisterous beats and volatile vocals have fallen off.
But like any quickly mounting musical movement that grabs the world’s youth by the throat, trend hoppers trail off and tastemakers prevail. Such is the case with hip hop duo City Morgue, comprised of 20-somethings ZillaKami and SosMula, who have arisen from the underground and become cemented in the exceptionally moshable era of modern rap.
Contrary to the stereotype that SoundCloud rappers are spawned from suburban comforts, SosMula hails from Spanish Harlem where he relied on selling crack to support himself. After serving a 15-month prison sentence for related offenses, SosMula got connected with ZillaKami’s older brother Righteous P, who was tattooing at a shop that Mula’s mother owned. Righteous P, who is the CEO of the music label Hikari-Ultra, recognized Mula’s creative potential, ultimately linking him with ZillaKami.
Kami, who had been performing music since his days playing in punk bands in high school, fused his talents with Mula to create an innovative style of hip hop within a budding online scene.
Consistently pushing the limits of social media terms and conditions, City Morgue have cultivated a viral presence on YouTube and Instagram defined by candid views of life in the gutter. From cruising at the skatepark to whipping in the kitchen, the young men showcase the highs and lows of living fast.
“When you watch one of my videos, it’s not really a video – it’s a documentary,” SosMula tells Knotfest.
ZillaKami goes on to explain that this level of integrity is vital to the City Morgue experience.
“We just wing it. Makes it realer
If you couldn’t tell by now, City Morgue punch the art of subtly right in the teeth. ZillaKami opts to protect his own smile with fanged grills, representing the duality of rock and rap ingrained in his influences. Citing Title Fight and DMX as his favorite artists, Kami brings a raw and raucous energy to his live performances, stating that they’re the “closest thing to a hardcore show you can get without going to a hardcore show.” SosMula has only one word to describe a City Morgue show: “Mayhem.”
In addition to his ferocious bite, ZillaKami proudly sports a tattoo of Corey Taylor’s Iowa mask on his forearm. While City Morgue’s career has thrived on YouTube, his first brush with Slipknot goes back to more primitive times.
“The first time I saw Slipknot was on the On Demand Music Choice thing on TV. I think it was ‘Wait and Bleed’ with the live performance video. Ever since then, I've been a die hard fan.”
While New York has been one of the hardest hit cities during the Pandemic, City Morgue managed to stay active during lockdown. In 2021, we saw the release of their third studio album City Morgue Vol 3: Bottom of the Barrel in addition to solo projects Dog Boy by ZillaKami and SosMula’s 13 Songs 2 Die 2. As prolific together as they are apart, City Morgue thrive on a DIY ethos.
Thanks to improved COVID-19 safety measures, City Morgue have been unleashed back on the streets. While the pair have performed coveted festivals such as Rolling Loud, they have not turned their back on club shows. Next month, Californians can catch ZillaKami and SosMula alongside Tony Velour as they embark on a four-date run in Santa Ana, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento.
With a rapid rise to popularity that has sustained itself through the fickle currents of the internet, City Morgue have overcome the hurdles that tend to plague modern artists. While ZillaKami has professed his love for horror director Guillermo del Toro, what the duo offers is a gateway into the true darkness and grime that runs in the undercurrents of society. When fact becomes more profound than fiction, simply being yourself can be the secret to success. As SosMula states, “I feel like if you believe in your art, you won’t need a plan B.”