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Hip hop studies is a multidisciplinary field of study that encompasses sociology, anthropology, communication and rhetoric studies, religious studies, cultural studies, critical race theory, missiological studies, art history, dance, musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and gender studies. The term "hip hop studies" began circulating in the mid-2000s, and though it is not clear who first coined the term to label the field, the field of hip hop studies is oft cited as having been crystallized by the publication of That's the Joint!: The Hip Hop Studies Reader in 2003.That's the Joint! includes approximately 25 years of scholarship, criticism, and journalism. The publication of this anthology was unprecedented, and spotlights the evolving and continuous influence of "one of the most creative and contested elements of global popular culture since its advent in the late 1970s." The publication of the first edition of That's the Joint! marked a consolidating moment for the field of hip hop studies because it brought together key writings on hip hop from a diversity of hip hop authorities.
Hip hop culture, rooted in the 1970s post-industrial South Bronx, is polyvocal and is represented in five cultural modes: rap music (oral), turntablism or "DJing" (aural), breaking (physical), graffiti art (visual), and knowledge (mental). Hip hop has, and continues to produce a remarkable array thinkers who embody complex ideological makeups exemplified through their performances as writers, artists, poets, and scholars. In Hip Hop Matters (2005), professor and media scholar S. Craig Watkins labels the increasing interdisciplinary cohort of hip hop academics and scholars as the "hip-hop intelligentsia," and suggests that while this group of individuals may not often been discussed as an entity in and of itself, their existence is, without question, one of the greatest achievements of the hip hop movement. Watkins writes:
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