Like many news organizations, Epicenter-NYC follows Associated Press style, which dictates our grammar usage. For instance, we abbreviate October when written with a specific date, but not March. Numbers under 10 are spelled out, while numbers 10 and up are written as figures. And, according to AP style, hip-hop should be spelled as such, lowercase and with a hyphen. But one man has made it his mission to get news organizations to reconsider that rule. Epicenter’s Danielle Hyams spoke with Joseph Sanchez, member of the Temple of Hip Hop and former adjunct professor of sociology within the CUNY system. 

Joseph Sanchez (R) with Grandmaster Melle Mel (L). Photo provided by Joseph Sanchez

“We believe that the way we preserve Hip Hop is by preserving the people and the culture, not the artifacts, not the turntables, not the sneakers,” Sanchez says. “And that’s almost a contradiction to how our society sees Hip Hop and practices.

His first goal? Getting people — and news organizations — to understand the three natures of Hip Hop. There is Hip Hop as culture, Hiphop as consciousness, and hip-hop as product, all grammatically distinct. 

“The culture of Hip Hop, in my own words, is a way to exist, it’s a way for the inner city youth to exist and create its own language and its own existence within a world where when you don’t get recognized, you have the opportunity to create yourself,” Sanchez explains. “That’s the culture of Hip Hop. What brings people together is the practicing of Hip Hop, which consists of nine elements: the breaking, emceeing, DJing, graffiti art, beatboxing, street fashion, street knowledge, street language and street entrepreneurialism.”

Hiphop as a consciousness, according to Sanchez, is the idea, spirit or force that wants to create beats, rhythms, graffiti or the desire to just go and do something creative. 

And lastly, hip-hop, lowercase and hyphenated, is the product. It’s the records, the speakers, the flyers. 

“I don’t understand how Hip Hop is a culture, and we spell it in lowercase. We’ve defined ourselves as a populace,” Sanchez says. “So why wouldn’t you spell our name with a capital H?  It’s kind of embarrassing that 50 years later, we’re still trying to ask the media to spell our name correctly.”

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