Step Into The Arena…

Because his mouth wrote yet another check marked “insufficient funds” in Monday’s Chamber of Commerce forum, Building Trades president Ryan Boyer is about to teach mayoral candidate Jeff Brown what happens when you anger a battle rapper.

Photo by Aleksandr Neplokhov

If you’ve been reading my Hall Monitor columns over the last few months, you know that this is the 50th birthday of one of my favorite forms of music, Hip-Hop.

Back when I was younger and had a lot more time and disposable income, I would go to the Spectrum and see acts like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and others. My husband Chris gets us tickets to the Roots Picnic every year, which has featured more of our favorite acts like Rakim, and one of my personal favorites, DeLa Soul.

And don’t even get me started on my love of the WuTang Clan…

But here’s a fact that you might not know about hip-hop. It has been used as a means to settle disputes. Rather than fight, crews of B-Boys and B-Girls would grab the mic to battle each other using a combination of freestyling, playing the “dozens” (think ‘mama jokes’) and break dancing to decide who was the best in the neighborhood.

Some of these rap battles went on to be legendary.

But not as legendary as the rap battle that seems to be shaping up between businessman Jeff Brown and Ryan Boyer, president of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council.

In a performance that’s making me think that I might owe his communications staff an apology for the way I called them out last week, Brown took to the forum stage during Monday night’s Chamber of Commerce forum and, for all intents and purposes, attacked former City Councilmembers Cherelle Parker and Helen Gym through their endorsements from the Building Trades and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers respectively.

As part of his “You should vote for me because I’m a businessman, not a politician” schtick, Brown, who has been endorsed by Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police, called the PFT and the Building Trades two “concerning unions” who were responsible for the city’s problems and said he never wanted their endorsements.

Almost immediately, the teachers produced receipts showing that Brown had participated in their endorsement process.

Meanwhile, Boyer grabbed the mic and showed Brown and everyone else that if you’re going to be a white dude participating in a battle rap, your name had better be Eminem.

Comparing Brown’s pursuit of the Building Trades endorsement to a “crackhead in search of a rock,” Boyer called Brown a liar, a con artist and an opportunist who was unfit to serve as the City’s mayor. According to Boyer, Brown contacted the union 50 times via email and text message, tried to leverage personal relationships, and did all he could to get the endorsement. But because they believed he wasn’t ready for prime time, the Building Trades took a pass.

But he didn’t stop there. Boyer also called for two of the unions who endorsed Brown, District Council 33 and TWU Local 234, to rescind their endorsements and for Gov. Josh Shapiro to take Brown off of the Workforce Development Board and the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s board due to what Boyer referred to as anti-union sentiments.

To paraphrase Rakim, Boyer held the microphone like a grudge.

DC33 president Ernie Garrett responded to Boyer’s request at a Brown rally, promising to stand by his chosen candidate. Local 234 hasn’t responded yet, nor has Gov. Shapiro.

The only independent poll taken in the race was released as I write this. It shows that there’s a five-way tie between Parker, Gym, former Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, former City Councilmember Allan Domb, and Brown, with 20% undecided.

But while he’s still in the race, Brown might have the toughest time of all of the candidates should he win.

Philadelphia is a union town, and he’s ticked off the president of the largest group of unions by, to paraphrase Kool Moe Dee, letting his mouth write a check his behind can’t cash.

Ironically, the rap in which Kool Moe Dee uttered this phrase is called “Big Mouth”.

The last day to register to vote in the May 16 primary is May 1.

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