Joseph Battaglia, otherwise known as Joey Batts, is an underground hip hop artist based out of Hartford, Connecticut. A self-proclaimed “walking subcategory,” Batts’ original sound spans many genres. With several serious mix tapes and a full album with his band “& Them,” the MC is constantly pushing his music to elevated heights. Batts will be performing and hosting a show on Friday, May 3 alongside Danbury-based DJ Mo Niklz at Sully’s Pub, located at 2071 Park Street in Hartford.
It was while studying creative writing and secondary education at the University of Hartford in the early 2000s when Batts and a few friends formed Pedagogy, a band that would last for six months before Batts dove into a new project with a fellow MC, Matt Zigs. Batts and Zigs would go on to form an eight-piece funk and hip hop band under the guise of Zigs and Batts Circus (ZBC), opening for such acts as The Roots, Method Man, and The Black Eyed Peas.
“[Pedagogy] was raw, man,” Batts reflects on his website. “We just took some ideas in a basement, and went in. Those dudes were great.”
“I think the ability to come up with rap lines at any given moment is much more impressive than digesting them over time, especially if they’re witty and quick”
During our interview, Batts expressed his enthusiasm for incorporating rap with a live musical band, a unique blend that defined ZBC and continues to inform his musical trajectory. Batts feels that working with other musicians creates an environment that fosters a strong stage presence unlike the traditional MC to beat methodology.
“Clubs that want original, more creative and original songs tend to be more laid back,” Batts said. “The atmosphere is clientele-based. You don’t have to have your guard up as much.”
As a day job, Batts teaches CAPT (Connecticut Academic Performance Test) strategies and literature to juniors and seniors at Opportunity High School in Hartford. He says achieving a balance between teaching and pursuing a music career is difficult – but the two came together in the recently released music video for “Poor Nemo,” which features Mo Niklz (real name Tristan Levy) on turntables (and dressed to the nines): Batts’ students star in the video with their own artwork.
Freestyling is a major element in all of Batts work; all of the mix tapes in his Seven Deadly Sins series are devoid of prewritten content (“Poor Nemo” is the second single off of Envy, Batts’ fifth installment in the series).
“I think the ability to come up with rap lines at any given moment is much more impressive than digesting them over time, especially if they’re witty and quick,” Batts explained. He says the series is his manifesto, with each tape containing a chapter in Batt’s journey in identity and personal truth. Batts took inspiration for seven-disc project from ancient Greek ideas of the sins: “[The sins were] made popular in fourth century Greece and later romanticized in the 16th century,” he explained.
It was while recording Greed in 2008 that Batts collaborated with Michael Spellman, or “BeatWiz” on the track “Atom Bomb.” Spellman would go on to serve as drummer in Joey Batts & Them, formed in 2011, alongside Vinny Diana on bass and Tony Volpe on guitar. Bowtie Chronicles, the band’s debut album, was released in the fall of 2012 and was entirely produced and arranged by Volpe.
Batts will be performing throughout the Greater Hartford area this summer. Keep up with him, & Them, at rapjoeybatts.com.