In an article, The Natti Ain't No Punk City: Emic Views of Hip Hop Cultures, that appeared in Callaloo (2006), H. Samy Alim offers a description of hiphopography. Alim draws from the words of James G. Spady in Nation Conscious Rap: The Hip Hop Vision (1991) to state:

“Hiphopography can be described as an approach to the study of Hip Hop culture that combines the methods of ethnography, biography, and social and oral history. Importantly, hiphopography is not traditional ethnography. Hierarchical divisions between the "researcher" and the "researched" are purposely kept to a minimum, even as they are interrogated. This requires the hiphopographer to engage the community on its own terms. Knowledge of the aesthetics, values, and history as well as the use of the language, culture, and means and modes of interaction of the Hip Hop Nation Speech Community is essential to the study of Hip Hop culture.”