Ruta Smith

During the latter half of the 2010s, Charleston rapper Marcellus McCloud, better known as SALIS, released a steady stream of Southern hip-hop songs to a devout fanbase on Soundcloud. He set himself apart by referring to his music as “country-rap tunes” and emphasizing characteristics of Southern hip-hop. After the release of his 2017 mixtape Sip N Swerve, and promising more of his signature Southern stylings, SALIS just kind of vanished.

Granted, he stepped out of the spotlight for a good reason: the birth of his daughter. “I had music that I was working on then but it took a back seat to everything else,” he says. “My creative will was still running but I had to make sure that she had my undivided attention and that nothing was taking away from her and my wife.”

After the time off, SALIS proudly returned March 20 with a new EP titled Store Run, a compilation of four songs, some of which were recorded in 2017.

SALIS’ fans and devotees of Southern hip-hop acts like Three 6 Mafia and the Dungeon Family are in for a treat. No matter the mood of the beat, SALIS’ flow always has the rough tenacity that’s characteristic for Southern hip-hop. The “country-rap tune” vigor perhaps comes across the best on closing track “TTN,” which contains the energy of a block party condensed into two minutes, accentuated by a stellar sample of ’90s R&B hit “Freak Like Me.”

Store Run is actually something of a concept album. SALIS intentionally kept the runtime short so it can be listened to in its entirety on the average round trip from home to the grocery store and back.

In a musical world where genre distinction is so tightly defined and emphasized, the term “country-rap tunes” can conjure up a lot of different sounds. But in SALIS’ case, it’s not a crossover of country and rap a la “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line and Nelly or “Old Town Road.” And it’s not a stylistic hybrid like Gangstagrass or Hugo’s famous cover of “99 Problems.”

In fact, the term “country-rap tunes” was coined by 1990s and 2000s hip-hop duo UGK to describe the type of hip-hop born out of southern culture. For SALIS, the “country-rap tunes” concept is all about being from the South. It’s all of the qualities of southern hip-hop from the rapping style, the lyrical content, and the execution. It’s “Ain’t No Thang” by Outkast with a little extra time spent in the deep fryer.

“[It’s] everything that’s influential around you growing up in the South. It’s the cars, it’s sweet tea, lemonade, pork chops, blues, church, organs, being around your family, riding bikes on a dirt road — that’s country-rap tunes,” he says. “It’s that southern drawl, all that compiled together.” If you grew up in a working class southern household, it’s easy to identify with a lot of that. SALIS cites D$, Jah Jr., and Ray DeeZy as other Charleston-area rappers who he thinks embody the cultural mentality that UGK formulated.

“It’s really just me staying true to myself, that’s what’s important,” he says. “I see people always coming to the South and taking things back with them and saying, ‘We came up with this.’ I’m Geechee and I always see people taking our culture. People come down here and see people making sweetgrass baskets and Palmetto roses and then you see that stuff everywhere else.”

He takes a real pride in UGK’s concept, and has taken it upon himself to carry on the representation of the culture that made him. It may be the dirty South but it’s beautiful to SALIS. It isn’t just music that he grew up on, it’s everything he knows, like a preservationist for the stories of working class, African Americans from the South. In the 2020s, when the Lowcountry is changing exponentially and those stories are being covered with new buildings and restaurant signs, we need more voices like his. Store Run might bring more than you expected during your next trip to the grocery, which is about all we can do these days.