Local Licks

This week we review Ali Baba the Oaktown Griot, The Eli Wise Band, Stronghold Sound, and Game Brothas.

Ali Baba the Oaktown Griot, America’s Best Coochie

It’s not until his second track, “Be a Doctor or a Lawyer,” that singer-rapper Ali Baba makes any allusion to his age — by expressing pity for those of you born in the Eighties and up. Still, it’s pretty obvious from his black beret and “Black Power” sloganeering that this album is going to be pretty steeped in Seventies-era Panther politics. “Don’t Let Me Down” makes excellent use of an old doo-wop sample. (Imperative Records)

The Eli Wise Band, The Ashen Grove

Ambient sounds and a weird configuration of instruments (piano, dulcimer, banjo, pump organ) aren’t the only things that animate this new release from singer-guitarist Eli Wise. In some ways it qualifies as a folk album, given the simple structures and the twangy lilt of Wise’s vocal intonation. But many songs are actually closer to rock. Wise’s arrangements are richly detailed, and he certainly doesn’t suffer for lack of creativity. (self-released)

Stronghold Sound, The Audio Refuge Compilation

The omnipresence of “Jah” and “Babylon” shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up this polyglot world music compilation. Among its strengths are Afrobeat dance tracks by the Wontanara Revolution group, and a woozy dub remix of a song by North African band The Dunes. There’s also some catchy hip-hop and cumbia from Bondi Blaster, the new project from Argentinean DJ (and occasional Express contributor) Juan Data. (self-released)

At the Elbo Room (647 Valencia St., San Francisco) on Sunday, July 24. 9 p.m., $6.

Game Brothas, How the West Was Won

Everything on this album has a double meaning. Or a triple meaning. Except the word “game,” which could connote just about anything you want (money, swag, power, mojo, knowledge). Sometimes the meanings aren’t obvious — the song “I Get It,” for example, is about acquisition, not comprehension. “Sleep wit’ a Rapper” is pretty literal, but it has this weird intro fairytale about a mouse and an elephant. Oh, I get it. (Game Brothas Entertainment)


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