This past March, Gabriel Perez was sitting in his Cape Coral home watching the NCAA basketball tournament when the game cut to a commercial. He sat chuckling at a Buffalo Wild Wings ad.
You remember the one: A birthday telegram goes horribly wrong when a dweeby guy with the unfortunately unisex name of Tracy is sent the wrong dancer. Co-workers open the office door to find a male stripper shaking his sailor-uniformed-crotch in Tracy's stunned face. A boombox in the background blasts an appropriately raunchy song called "Swing That Thang."
That's when Perez nearly choked on his chips. Fifteen years earlier, Perez had written "Swing That Thang" as one of the founding members of Hialeah booty bass rap group Mentally Disturbed. And he hadn't given anyone permission to use the song.
"Nearly every cable TV station in the country ran that commercial," Perez says. "It was on heavy rotation in 800 cities for a month, but I didn't get a dime. That's not right."
Perez is now fighting to get paid. In the early '90s, Gabriel — then known as Gigolo — started Mentally Disturbed with his brother Edward. When Edward was killed in a shooting on Christmas Eve 1993, Gabriel and friends finished the record. They later found modest success on MTV and performing live with fellow booty bass groups such as 2 Live Crew.
Perez wrote "Swing That Thang" in 1996. "Let me tell you how it goes/Gigolo is known for pimpin' hos," Perez crooned.
"It's pretty much about girls doing the nasty dance," he says.
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Perez is now being forced to prove his copyrights in court. DM Records, a company based out of North Miami Beach, insists it has owned "Swing That Thang" and other Mentally Disturbed songs since buying them from another label in a bankruptcy sale in 1999.
"Mr. Perez has his facts wrong," DM Records cofounder Mark Watson says. He has filed a complaint for declaratory relief against Perez.
True to his name, however, Gigolo still expects to get his money. "DM didn't even check if they owned the song before selling it to Buffalo Wild Wings," Perez alleges. "It's a real funny commercial. I just wish they got my permission and paid me for it."