White privilege has been a central part of the rap music consciousness from the very beginning, at least as long as "The Message," if not longer, depending on how far back you want to go. So, particularly in the politically charged days of 2015, when an album like Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly can top the Billboard Top 200, it's no surprise to hear New Orleans rapper Mack Maine confronting the issue. Except not everyone is happy about Maine's new song, "Ethan Couch," and at the center of the controversy is a Keller native known as the the Affluenza Teen.
Couch was 16 in 2013 when he got drunk, got behind the wheel of a pickup and sped at 70 mph through a 40-mph zone and crashed, injuring two of his passengers and killing youth pastor Brian Jennings and three others, who were gathered on the side of the road changing a flat tire. Couch's blood-alcohol content was .24, three times the legal limit. Couch pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter, and a judge sentenced him to probation. Couch's defense claimed he was a victim of "affluenza," meaning his pampered upbringing left him incapable of grasping the consequences of his actions.
Maine's song doesn't hide its intentions; it's even named after Couch. The lyrics are withering: "A little 16-year-old killed four people/ He was drunk, loaded, high off Valiums/ They say he too wealthy to go to jail," he raps at one point. "But then you got Wayne go to jail?/ Because he attempted to possess a gun/ Whatever the hell that means." All well and good, but there's one hiccup.
As TMZ first reported last week, the album cover purportedly shows a picture of some other young, white minor who isn't Couch. Now the parents of the second boy, Mark and Becky English from Kentucky, are suing Maine and Birdman, whose record label Cash Money Records released the album.
The Englishes see the artwork as grounds for invasion of privacy, commercial appropriation, defamation, outrageous conduct, unjust enrichment and a violation of trademark law, according to the lawsuit. They aren't seeking a specific dollar amount for compensation.
"Given the nature of the song, the lyrics, phrases, words and overall content, together with the heinous crimes associated with the underlying individual, Ethan Couch, Defendants' use of the likeness of P.E. has caused and will continue to cause both (the minor) and his family embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress," the lawsuit states.
The picture used on the cover is a bit pixilated, but a simple Google search for "Ethan Couch" shows images from Couch in court, as well as another shaggy-haired boy with earrings, who isn't the boy who pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter, according to the lawsuit.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE...
Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.