Articles

Conceptual Language Usage from L’Orange and Kool Keith

The thought of conceptual metaphors is elusive, and ever present. What does this mean? Each and every day humans make sense of the reality around them by creating these metaphors. Not the type of metaphors seen in poetry where authors compare one thing to another, although similar, very different things apply to conceptual metaphors. Conceptual metaphors strive to make sense of reality by linking a concrete object (source domain) to an abstract idea (target domain) in order to better understand said abstract idea. In addition to the conceptual metaphors, we often see larger, more encompassing types of metaphors in something referred to as a general metaphor. These include subjects such as STATES ARE EMOTIONS, PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS, EVENTS ARE ACTIONS, and GENERIC IS SPECIFIC. Now, these general metaphors can be identified through a few different types of things including image metaphors and metonymies. With the combination of all these parts of language, we see a shape of what everyday language is and how it is created. However, even though these concepts are seen and heard in everyday life, the idea of them is elusive because it is so engrained in people’s lives that they rarely realize precisely what they are accomplishing. Even more so, these metaphors are seen in music performances. In the rest of this paper, I will discuss and analyze the conceptual metaphors found in a collaborative album from two members of the Mello Music Group, L’Orange and Kool Keith. 

TIME IS MOTION

TIMEMOTION
-Indefinite-Can have a purpose, can also be haphazard
-Irreversible-Once done, cannot be undone
-Sequences-Happens in a certain order
-Quantifies rates of change-A change that can be quantified
-Imaginary-Concrete event

The second track on this album titled, “The Traveler”, embodies the conceptual metaphor of TIME IS MOTION.  This conceptual metaphor is seen in many lyrics through the album, however, in The Traveler specifically, the lyric goes, 

My time travel existence is a slight mission/Moving the courses/Changing the vision/Adjusting through the weather reactions/See the cerebrum, how fast I’m passing/Every thought is a different action

He speaks about time travel and also touches on how fast he is moving, thus, making it clear that TIME IS MOTION. Even on a smaller scale, the idea of traveling through time makes it apparent that you can move about in time, which is a concept. Time is not a concrete thing, which is why Kool Keith has to assign a target domain of moving through this time in order for the concept to make sense. If this target domain was not assigned or universally understood, the idea of moving through something that does not exist would seem completely irrational.

A little later in the same track, we see another example of this conceptual metaphor. This time from a featured artist, J-Live. He says;

I’m a travelling man/Moving through space and time most definitely/Since I was a little bush baby/Had to jump back and pinch myself/Timeless cuteness

            Here we see an example of how explaining a concept such as time in a way that people will understand the point, it makes it much easier to comprehend such abstract topics. The motion he talks about through space and time, make it clear his objective is to prove that time is something that can be moved through just the way you move through a room. However, at the end of the lyric we see something different. Still pertaining to the idea that TIME IS MOTION, but in a different sense. It shows that a feature of someone or something cannot be changed or altered through the motion of time itself. Meaning, that even though time has moved forward, the cuteness as he refers to, has stayed the same. 

            An image metaphor presents itself here as he refers to himself in a childlike form to present a sort of innocence. This is an image metaphor because it paints a mental image for listeners that this man who is speaking on very serious topics becomes a child in their minds, making it easier for the message to be received. 

            Overarching this entire idea that TIME IS MOTION is a much larger, more general metaphor of GENERIC IS SPECIFIC. What this means is that, by using generic terms such as time and motion, a more specific conclusion can be reached. The way it’s seen in these lyrics is specifically showing how the power of an elusive concept like time can be used to define things like how moving through time in a more palatable manner. 

LIFE IS A JOURNEY

LIFEJOURNEY
-Choices-Roads
-Choices-Paths
-Goals, purpose for travelling-Destinations
-Unexpected life events-Detours
-Things that slow or stop you-Roadblocks
-Something that weighs on you and you must carry-Bags
-Milestones-Road signs
-Method of gaining progress-Modes of transportation

Within the album, we don’t see many examples of the conceptual metaphor of LIFE IS A JOURNEY, as this is an album that speaks on the concept of time a lot. However, in the track, Days I used to know, it bares its face. The lyric delivered by L’Orange goes;

His rocket ship in heading/In the general direction of Earth isn’t it/Sure/Have yourself looking at the view/And turn the radio scope on/All by looking one way forward window/No socket am talkin by me/Have I ever led you to the work of navigation

This one is a little difficult to see and we can’t look at it in parts, instead as a whole. We 

see L’Orange talking about a destination, even asking an entity if he has ever led them astray. This lyric does not necessarily touch on the journey in and of itself, however it mostly focuses on the destination that L’Orange is talking about. With any destination however, there must be a journey to get there. That is why it is inferred that this represents LIFE IS A JOURNEY.

            Also in this lyric there is an example of an image metaphor. L’Orange is speaking like he is in a spaceship, which represent the mode of transportation on this journey. It is an image metaphor because of the fact that the best way to describe the scene and how difficult this journey the entity and himself are on. 

The larger general metaphor that represent the conceptual metaphor of LIFE IS A JOURNEY is PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS. As a good rule of thumb, general metaphors are easier to understand and explain, so in order to understand life as a journey, we first have to understand that PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS. Lives are a purposeful thing, as they all have a destination or at least a path to that destination. So, inevitably, LIFE IS A JOURNEY that has a purpose simply because of the fact it has a destination at the end, in the middle, or at any point within. 

TIME IS A REAPER

TIMEREAPER
-Conducive to an end-Symbolizes the end of a life
-Imaginary concept-An imaginary symbol for death
-Irreversible-Symbolizes an irreversible part of life
-Quantifies change-A change in life that is quantifiable
-Indefinite-Never know when the reaper will come

            The next track on the album, titled Twenty Fifty-Three,holds yet another example of the concept that TIME IS A REAPER and it comes from yet another featured artist on the album, Mr. Lif. Within his verse he has the set of lines;

I move from 1823 to 2053 casually/Time creates casualties, actually/Whether the great plague, or your homie Bruce with the fake leg/Karma-kaze bomb but time moves on

In this lyric, Mr. Lif is speaking about how time takes away lives. This is very obviously 

the metaphor that TIME IS A REAPER. In a certain sense, time is a reaper because as time passes, the older people get, the closer they get to death, which the reaper symbolizes. However, in this lyric, it is approached differently than this. He is comparing time to things like the plague, and kamikazes, which are very sudden, harsh ways of dying. This proves that time is indefinite because in comparing the end of time to a sudden death, it’s very unexpected and is very hard to define when it will happen. Not the main conceptual metaphor, but I feel as though it should be mentioned that this lyric also touches on the metaphor of TIME IS MOTION with the very last section when he says, “time moves on”.

            The overarching general metaphor that aligns with the conceptual metaphor of TIME IS A REAPER is obviously EVENTS ARE ACTIONS. I say this because EVENTS ARE ACTIONS most often represent the personification of things in order to make sense of an abstract concept. The event that has action being placed on it is time and the reaper is that action. The reaper comes to take time away from an individual, thus putting the action on the event of time. It gets a little confusing when thinking about personifying the reaper, which is also a constructed, abstract idea, however, in relation to time, it is very concrete as it has a face and a figure and time is merely a thought and a very abstract concept. 

NEGATIVE IS BENEATH

            This is a conceptual metaphor not listed by Lakoff and Turner. I tailored this one because I feel as though it is accurate in the way people speak about negative things. When something is beneath you, it is inherently not as good as you, thus negative. 

BENEATHNEGATIVE
-Not on the same level-Not as good as something else
-Where the devil resides-Negative things are referred to as “the devil”
-Dark-Not presented in a bright way
-Lower in position -A lower standard
-Usually covered by something-Overshadowed by more “positive” things

            As far as the L’Orange and Kool Keith album, we can see an example of this in the song Twenty Fifty Three when Kool Keith says; 

Satan try to hide pull the top off a man hole/I’ll show you where the devil is

            In this line, he is saying that both the devil and Satan reside below the ground, explained by the manhole portion of the line. Another intricacy found here is that Satan is a negative entity and that he will introduce the person he is talking to throughout the verse to the devil beneath the surface in order to show him what is really bad. Since he has to put this person underneath of him in a sense, he views this individual as negative, or not up to the standards of Kool Keith. 

            An image metaphor that is found here is the manhole part. It is a much more creative way of saying that beneath the ground lies a negative place where this individual belongs. Everyone knows that a manhole cover leads underground so he doesn’t have to explain why the negative part of the world is in a manhole. 

            Also, with this metaphor, a general metaphor makes itself known. STATES ARE LOCATIONS best applies here as things that are negative (the state) are beneath other things (the location)

            In the duration of the album, Time? Astonishing!, by Mello Music Group’s L’Orange and Kool Keith, there are many instances where a conceptual metaphor resides within a general metaphor, allowing listeners to understand the intricacies of their lyrics and the message they wish to convey. While these thoughts are complex when analyzed, in day to day life, in casual listens to the album, these things are second nature and just make sense without much effort being placed in said thoughts. A combination of these two types of different metaphors and the usage of image metaphors, L’Orange and Kool Keith bring together an album full of dense imagery that tell a fantastic tale of what they believe time represents and what it means to them. 

-pesch

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