Noble Scity is the crew. Utica, New York, the place. Zagnif Nori, formerly known as Iron Fingaz is the MC. Meridian Gem is the debut LP that is another masterwork in a year of beat blessings to give thanks. Hip Hop music will not be resurrected by thousands of counter singles but select albums as these that are handcrafted over years of militant enlightenment. For that, Zagnif Nori is the epitome of calm menace, growing in knowledge break by break and snare by snare his righteous fury increases as his oppressor targets become apparent and the babies’ chances become slimmer.
Zagnif’s excitement for sharing his learning isn’t just directed toward the betterment of our impoverished but also intriguingly obsessed with the hidden meaning of symbols, systems and archaeological connections. His verses are infused with a brilliantly unapologetic suspension of belief in anything the devils in power speak. It is balanced by a deep respect for the ancient architects that fathered civilization and constantly have fought to uplift it. As the most daring MC ought to, his personage places himself right in that battlefront. It is a battlefront of Art for mind that rarely has gifted white artists sincerely appearing. With Zagnif, there is a natural sincerity and a seamless blending of all he intends powerfully exuded track by track. Zagnif didn’t work to be in the struggle, didn’t struggle to be down—his heart is down in the struggle (“My skin color don’t remove me from the struggle and pain..”). Ushered in with his Noble Scity click that constantly shines through each feature, they easily become one of the top crews to watch in Hip Hop.
The Meridian Gem is a range of insights explored. It starts with the cleverness of its song titles almost all flipping iron in some fashion [as Zagnif Nori is Iron Fingaz spelled backwards]. The unifying element being a lyric militarization against oppression. This is the next generation making knowledge born as his “Hadid Nori” declaration starts with slow, measured bars that become fluidly guided double time darts that earn vigorous rewind. There is coverage from the cycle of ills that affect the poor and impoverished (“Poor Kings”), the gritty details of street effects (“Concrete Doctrines”) to the stories of the treacherous (“Judas Shareholders II”). Each track reveals a skill from the fluctuating vocals to trace the character thoughts on “Judas Shareholders II,” the subtly intense punctuation on “Poor Kings” and the monotonous piling of observations that portraits depression on “Concrete Doctrines.” The tracks are a marriage of microphone techniques and engaging views.
Verses abound and are wonderfully fragmented to expose sharp lines (“..Mastered the devils’ education in the public school system/ then study truth on my own..flip a book in a child’s hands/and lift faces off devils living with foul plans…” – “Faridat”). Sequenced well to highlight Zagnif even as he forums his Noble Scity brothers [Crucial The Guillotine, Danamic, Illy Vas, Kaotny, Sleeps making music and graphic designer Bourvil] , there is an ease of distinction for the listener to make MC ids easily. Zagnif has a repertoire of battle hymns that place honor, principles and integrity as the handle bars of talent (“These MCs .. they wanna stay inside a box living inside of coffins/ brain dead to the self/ reaching for fortune I go broke following my path…” – “Gem Star”). He also layers his verses exceptionally as seen with the “Zubair” chorus using the rhyming bar to dually work the said line and have relevance to the coming line, “Lectures at hand/principles, exceptional man/ Noble entities speech presented on stand/ supreme architect craft dimensional plans/Scity egalitarian credentials expand…”
The production are masterworks of the mid tempo range via the classic Hip Hop sampling techniques. They are dominating tracks so perfectly crafted as works of the sampler and chop/loop schools they harken the 90’s best. Production only fails this way if it reeks of mere homage but Meridian Gem’s beats are molded around the words of Zagnif and the Noble Scity men. The verses speak to us and the listener fights through beat crack that pipes heavy and definitively. There is strong attention to the diversity of breaks, snares, high hats, musicality and interlude clips here. There are the loudest sleigh bells ever that dominate Crucial the Guillotine’s “Element 26” where a slice of melodic piano chord is a gruesome addiction that honors the classic Showbiz and Lord Finesse production staple. Then the bottoming out bass drum of Illy Vas’ “Old Gold” to the popped speaker bass drums thumping on “II.” Kevlaar 7 works “Zubair” with a high snare and cascading horns while Crucial’s “Lost Children” has a shortened blaring horn and a lady OOOwww that harmonizes the big beat drums where snare, bass drum and high hat are all played with Thor’s hammer. The louder the track the more Zagnif propels his tales of horror and scribes of redemption with a driven temperament that becomes more and more apparent with each listen. Influenced and guided by greats that helped pioneer and propel righteousness on wax and the soulful street aural pasture, Crucial’s “Pyramid Builders” with Sunz of Man & Thug Angelz’ Hell Razah and Wisemen’s Kevlaar 7, has its horns and sampled vocals become bar timers that flow through the bass spills and undercurrent the verses. It makes the track the crowning signature of Zagnif’s introduction.
This 2010’s decade has seen the debut of MCs with massive talent and an understanding directed toward the liberation and enlightenment of the Original (Black, Brown, Yellow) diaspora and the poor/Blue Collar masses. Zagnif Nori, just as Wisemen’s Kevlaar 7, Cyrus Malachi and Melanin 9 of UK’s Triple Darkness crew and Napoleon Da Legend, has debuted with these dynamic details of character that make Hip Hop music a score of salvation.