Joey Batts balances being a teacher with being a performer.
Joey Batts is a high school teacher in Hartford, Conn. by day, but by night, Batts is the frontman of the hip-hop/alternative rock fusion band Joey Batts & Them.
Batts and company were nominated for the New England Music Awards in the category of Best Hip-Hop Act. Despite falling short, the group is capturing the airwaves of New England one show at a time.
Q: What does it mean for you to be here at the New England Music Awards?
It’s an honor representing the entire state of Connecticut in my genre. It’s overwhelming; I’ve played a lot of shows with a lot of bands to be here.
Q: What artists did you grow up listening to? How did that influence your music?
I spent a lot time listening to the Wu-Tang Clan. I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s when hip-hop was at its peak, so Biggie, Big Pun and De la Soul were also some of my favorites. However, lyrically, Wu-Tang had the biggest influence on me.
Q: What makes the sound you and your band play unique compared to other rappers?
First of all, a lot of rappers don’t have live bands. That alone separates us right off the bat. On top of that, we distance ourselves further by working on our melodies and hooks to create music that’s fun for everyone.
Q: What’s the biggest show that you’ve played? How does your New England Music Awards experience compare to it?
This summer, we played at Six Flags New England, and that show exposed us to about three to four thousand people. Being here feels good because I’m around my peers, people who do the same things as I do. We’re all fans in our own right and we genuinely appreciate the work we do at this level.
Q: How do you balance being a teacher and a rapper?
It’s kind of like Bruce Wayne balancing being himself and Batman. Every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., I’m a teacher. When the sun goes down, though, I’m a performer, so I’m kind of playing two roles. The kids, teenagers and young adults always want to hear about me as a rapper. However, to establish a relationship with the kids, I come to them as a teacher. A rapper can’t help guide them in life. It also helps that I rap about positive things. I don’t have any music that could get me fired. That wouldn’t send a positive message to my students.
Q: What’s an important lesson that you’ve learned from your students?
Through working with inner-city kids, I’ve learned that they’re not as tough as they say they are. What I mean by that is that you can’t just say something to a kid and just expect that he or she won’t take it personally or be upset by it. You have to be loving and comforting. Although it’s easier to love an 8-year-old city kid than an 18-year-old one, even the toughest kids have a heart.
Q: As you’re sitting here now, possibly about to receive an award for your music, what would you tell your students about following their dreams?
I would simply tell them to do whatever makes them happy no matter what. I had an English teacher in high school tell me that I should stop rapping. I wouldn’t be here right now if I had listened to him. As long as it’s safe and appropriate, I say go for it.