Hartford Teacher Joey Batts Again Organizes Hip Hop For The Homeless

Hip Hop for the Homeless: two weekends of music across six Connecticut cities, all for a good cause

Not everyone loves the holidays.

Joey Batts isn't a fan. So for the second year in a row, Batts hosts "Hip-Hop for the Homeless," a two-weekend event (Dec. 3 to 5 and Dec. 10 to 12) stretched across six Connecticut cities — Bridgeport, New London, Hartford, New Haven, New Britain and Middletown — and featuring nearly every great name in CT hip-hop. It's his way of dealing.

"It just felt great," says Batts, speaking of last year's event. "I wanted to do something that would make me feel some holiday cheer. This really cured me last year."

Batts' real last name is Battaglia, and he teaches English in the Hartford public schools. His band, Joey Batts and Them, released its third album, "Fandalize," earlier this year. You've seen his face on stickers, plastered everywhere, along with the slogan "Joey Batts is your best friend."

The model for Hip-Hop for the Homeless is simple: Batts partners with area nonprofit groups in poor communities. He organizes concerts at area clubs and recruits artists from his extensive network. They perform, sell CDs and T-shirts and request donations (food, clothes, money) that go straight to the charities. Audiences, in return, hear great music.

Last year's event raised a total of $2,500 for area charities.

"A lot of people thought I would just give up after one year, because it was so crazy," says Batts.

This year's event will raise money for New London's Homeless Hospitality Center, Hands-On Hartford, Night Angels (also in Hartford), New Haven's Columbus House, the United Way and End in 10, a coalition to end homelessness in 10 years. Batts, along with Ceschi Ramos, Jose Oyola, N.M.E. the Illest, Jobo, Chris B. Amazing, Ty Hookz and at least a dozen other rappers and DJs will perform.

Batts, a 2013 finalist for Hartford teacher of the year, says he has seen too many homeless teenagers to remain on the sidelines.

"You get to talking, and you realize that the archetypal version of a homeless person isn't just that old guy with a beard," Batts says. "There are really young kids out there who don't have anywhere to live."

Homeless teenagers, Batts says, aren't getting the services they need, "whether they've been evicted, whether they lose their house to a fire or going through some B.S. with DCF. Even if you're homeless for a week and you don't have a bed, it has an effect on you."

The hip-hop community, Batts adds, is guilty of glamorizing "couch surfing." "But at the end of the day, when you're 15 and you're watching over your 8-year-old brother or sister, couch surfing ain't fun."

For a long time, Batts has been a fixture on the Connecticut music scene, but he doesn't just want to be the guy on the sticker.

"I don't want to just be a gimmick," he says. "I might as well see if I can do anything with the wide-ranging audience that I have. I'm lucky that a lot of my friends, that a lot of talented musicians and talented rappers and creative minds were willing to get behind something."

Ceschi Ramos is among the bigger acts who have agreed to return.

"[Ceschi] would never say it out loud, but he's getting paid to do shows," Batts says. "You're talking about a guy who sold out Toad's Place. For him to take part in a philanthropic thing like this, it was just really cool. People dropped everything to be a part of it last year, before they even knew the attention it would get."

Batts credits social media for spreading the fear of missing out.

"Once they started to see this pop up on Instagram and Twitter," Batts says, "people say, 'You know what? Let me get my ass out of the house and see what's going on.'"

The Schedule

Following are the venues and dates of "Hip-Hop for the Homeless 2." All concerts start at 8 p.m., and donations are suggested for admission.

Dec. 3 at the Copper Fox in Bridgeport: Jahan Nostra, Crooked Mindz, Jonny Empire, The Pilotz, Splat860, Dodgy Sorts, Muggsy, Mufasa RKG, Smoov Jones, Holcomb & Rusty, MC Johnny Wae, Cinderfella.

Dec. 4 at the Oasis Pub in New London: Joey Batts, Ceschi Ramos, Jose Oyola, Clas!ck, N.M.E. the Illest, Stryfe, Old Self, Erik Lamb, Skobie Won, Tang Sauce, Self Suffice, Chumzilla

Dec. 5 at Eight Sixty Skateshop in Hartford: Joey Batts & Them, Ceschi Ramos, Jose Oyola, Muggsy, A.R.T, Splat860, Wrex Mason, Zak G, Old Self, Jobo, N.M.E. the Illest, Clas!ck, Tang Sauce, Zulynette Morales, DJ Mo Niklz

Dec. 10 at Cafe Nine in New Haven: Joey Batts & Them, Tommy V, Old Self, Phenom and the Dreamers, SeeS, Sketch the Cataclysm, U.F.O., Clas!ck

Dec. 11 at The Frosty Mug in New Britain: N.M.E. the Illest, White Cheddar, CrissB.Amazing, Ty Hookz, Smoov Jones, Stryfe, Splat860, Wrex Mason, Crooked Mindz, Holcomb & Rusty, Funk Gero, DJ MdotLive

Dec. 12 at Mac 650 Gallery in Middletown: Joey Batts, N.M.E. the Illest, Stryfe, SeeS, Sketch the Cataclysm, A.R.T., CrissB.Amazing, Ty Hookz, Jobo, Clas!ck, Dina Brass, Zulynette Morales, Chumzilla

HIP-HOP FOR THE HOMELESS 2 takes place in Bridgeport, New London, Hartford, New Haven, New Britain and Middletown from Dec. 3 to 5 and Dec. 10 to 12. Information: facebook.com/HipHopfortheHomeless.

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