My work examines the roles of human and nonhuman actors in the transmission of knowledge in experimental hip-hop. I argue that producers learn from both technologies and their peers, and that this approach to learning seems distinct from the types of formal and informal teacher-student relationships that exist in more traditional music making. This means that the musicians I study must not only be formidable autodidacts, but also able to build strong bonds with other producers, enabling them to develop the skills to create forms of compositional complexity that are highly valued.
In this paper I examine how idiom is learned, how the knowledge to create idiomatic sounds is produced and transmitted, and how these processes are shaped by networks of actors. The specific focus however, concerns how different types of intimacy shape the ways in which essential musical knowledge is shared, and how producers conceptualise certain sounds as possessing particular import. I deploy the term ‘intimacy’ in my work in two crucial ways. Firstly, I use it to refer to deeply personal social connections and the cultural context in which these occur, and secondly, I employ intimacy in the sonic realm as it relates to the personal, and apparently authentic, nature of creative acts, placing my work in dialogue with scholars such as Lauren Berlant, Michael Herzfeld, and Martin Stokes.