Keep Dallas Observer Free

Mack Maine and Birdman Sued by Parents of Son Mistaken for Keller Affluenza Teen

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.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

"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.

View the full complaint below:

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.