For years, fans of Joey Batts have been plastering his face all over the state of Connecticut, and in recognition of this, Batts has named his band’s latest album Fandalize!

The band, named Joey Batts & Them, is widely recognized as one of the best hip-hop acts in the state of CT, with the exact right combination of emcee skills, and musicality.

With Fandalize! due out next week, RapReviews caught up with Batts to find out more about his relationship with his fans, as well as his recent Hip-Hop for the Homeless Tour, where all the proceeds went to various homeless charities, and how doing good for others ended up landing him in the hospital.

Adam Bernard: Fandalize! isn’t just the name of your upcoming album, it’s pretty much a way of life for you. Tell me about the origins of Fandalize!

Joey Batts: Growing up with all the influences of hip-hop, it wasn’t just rap, it was b-boying, it was the music, it was the dancing, and a big part of it was graffiti, so I used to always mess around with that when I was a kid. I just loved the idea of stickers, and sticker bombing. It was always super punk rock.

Once I put my face on a sticker, it was a wrap, it just snowballed out of control, so I think the name comes from fans, vandalism, appreciating what me and my band do, and just having fun with the sticker, and supporting by wearing the shirt with the image on it, supporting by putting up stickers with the image on it, and just being part of that whole movement.

AB: You have those stickers up in almost every city and town in Connecticut. What’s the closest you’ve come to getting in trouble for having your face appearing everywhere?

JB: {*laughs*} You want a story that you can actually publish?

AB: Is there a trial date pending?

JB: No no no, there’s not a trial date pending. Nothing’s ever happened to me. I do remember walking around Brooklyn before a gig, though, and we put one on the Williamsburg bridge, and there was a policeman like ten feet away, and he was just like, “Are you serious!?! What the hell!?!” My drummer was gonna get in a lot of trouble, but I was able to save him.

AB: Do you carry Goo Gone on you at all times now, just in case a cop is there?

JB: No. I feel like they would look at that and feel even more skeptical. We played the “We’re just tourists from Connecticut” card. It was funny. I had to talk to him, I said, “Hey man, I know the deal,” and he’s just like, “Goddamn, all these Brooklyn hipsters,” and we said, “We’re from Connecticut, though, we’re a different kind of hipster!”

AB: Good going! Moving back to the album, your relationship with your fans is clearly an influence on Fandalize! Tell me about that aspect of the inspiration behind the album.

JB: You know what it comes down to, almost a year ago we launched a Kickstarter, and it was a really humbling experience. Seeing the people who came out of the woodwork really touched me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. That’s why I was just like there needs to be a couple of songs about the fans. There need to be some songs that have that memorable quality, because they need to know that I’m not just making music because “hey look, I’m rapping. Look at me rapping. I can do this, I can rhyme words, I can flow.” You need to do a lot more.

I’m old school. I’m a loyal cat, I think people deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty, and I really wanted to give something back to the people who helped me and the band out.

AB: Fans aside, what else was inspiring you during that time?

JB: Road trips is the short answer. Road trips inspired me.

One of my favorite albums ever, Liquid Swords by GZA, you can pop that CD in and play it from front to back. I hate CDs where you’re like, “Aw shit, man, I don’t like track six,” or, “I don’t like tracks three and four,” so I wanted to create an album that can just flow, from front to back, a nice short, succinct, 40 minute album that you can pop in a car while you’re driving through the state of Connecticut, or from one part of CT to MA, or from CT to NY, and just enjoy it.

AB: Do you have any especially memorable moments, good or bad, from the recording process?

JB: Yeah, on “Red Lights” Floyd (Kellogg) from Violent Mae made me rap into an actual guitar PA so he could get a certain sound of my voice as it came through. It was ridiculous. I don’t know the science behind it, but when the sound came out back into the microphone there was a certain reverb on it. It was cool, it was almost like an undertone. It was almost like Auto-Tuning without the actual Auto-Tune. It sounded like I was a robot rapping.

AB: The first single off of Fandalize! is “Party at My Place.” Why was that the song you wanted to lead off with?

JB: I wanted it to be “#Bestie,” but a lot of the guys thought that was too ridiculous, too poppy. We thought “Party at My Place” had a cool enough groove, and we’d been playing that one live for almost a year, so that one is the one that a lot of people know. That was kind of like this album’s “Bad Guy,” where just as soon as we launch into “Bad Guy” everyone knows the words to it.

AB: Speaking of parties, your shows can be raucous experiences. What are some of the wilder moments you remember from those shows?

JB: Oh man, that’s funny. Last year I threw a Cinco de Mayo themed birthday party. We had a taco bar, and in the middle of the set we brought this pinata out, and random people in the audience were taking swings at it. Finally it was launched into the crowd and people were like steppin on it, other people were reaching for Smarties and Nerds, other people were trying to not get kicked in the head. It was pretty ridiculous, and I definitely got a Ring Pop thrown at my face.

AB: On your own birthday.

JB: On my own birthday! Those sons of bitches!

AB: It wasn’t a marriage proposal?

JB: If it was, I didn’t hear it. I was just like, “Hey, a Ring Pop!” That was a pretty good time.

Another time there was a group of older ladies celebrating a 50th birthday party at Mohegan Sun, and one of the ladies was asking us to take citrus shots, like grab orange slices out of her cleavage, mid-song. It was pretty ridiculous, and pretty fun. It was one of those things where it was just like, do I say no to this? Where does my cool factor lie if I say no to this?

AB: Where does your cool factor lie, and where do people’s marriages lie afterwards!

JB: I’m sure she had a good time. I was just super excited that she spent the whole night with us. She bought a bunch of CDs. It was awesome.

AB: Going back to December, you created the Hip-Hop for the Homeless Tour, all the proceeds from which went to various homeless charities throughout the state of CT. Where did you get the idea for this tour, and how difficult was it to pull off?

JB: Oh man, good questions. (In my family) we already don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Five, or six, years ago my father passed away on Thanksgiving, so that holiday already doesn’t mean much to me, and (when it comes to) Christmas, my sister’s struggling with cash, I’m struggling for cash, why the fuck would we exchange gifts if we’re not gonna create anything?

I was in traffic, talking with my sister on the phone, and I’m telling her (the holiday situation) sucks, (then I’m like) who the hell am I in this wonderful place of America, with my health perfect, with a nice job, with a successful musical career, how can I complain about the holidays when some people don’t have anything at all? I thought what better way to celebrate than to use whatever buzz that I have, to use whatever supplies, and whatever ability I have at my fingertips, to try to create something? I said I could easily tap into the music scene, and I would love to help out the homeless.

We had just been talking about (homelessness) at work, because I have my fifth student in six years who I found out is recently homeless, and it just sucks. I can’t imagine a 16 year old on the streets with nowhere to go. Hanging out at your friends house sounds awesome, but in reality, to not have a closet of clothing, to not have a mattress that’s yours, that’s some depressing shit. That’s where the brainchild came from.

It started out as two shows in Hartford, then a couple of other club owners got wind of it, and they were just like, “Yo, we need to make this happen immediately,” and then I really wanted to get into Bridgeport and New Haven because of the communities there, and how much they would benefit from it. The rest is history. It was a great first year for us, and I’m really looking forward to doing it again this year.

AB: You mentioned having your health, but you were hospitalized shortly after you completed the tour. Was this a result of burning the candle at both ends, touring while also working full time as a teacher?

JB: You know, the funny thing is no doctor will sign off and say, “Hey, stress is a direct correlation to needing an appendectomy,” but I tried to fast during the tour, I was working my ass off in school, and I did ten consecutive days of hosting, rapping, singing, picking up boxes, meeting people, shaking hands, kissing babies, and what have you, so I definitely think my body was like, “Yo, you’re obviously not gonna slow the fuck down, so I’m gonna make you slow down.”

AB: That said, you’re still going to do it again this year.

JB: Yes, but I will not be fasting. I think that’s completely out of my system. I have to find another way to find my chi energy, and rather than ten consecutive days, I think I’ll do two weekends. I’ll do Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Thursday, Friday Saturday. I think that will be better in the club scene, as well. It’s tough to get people out on a Monday night.

AB: You previously used the hashtag #BestFriend all over social media, and even on your t-shirts, so the people need to know, are you still everybody’s best friend?

JB: I feel like I’m more than a best friend. I feel like people have welcomed me into their homes. Before it was, “Yeah man, Joey Batts is awesome, he’s my best friend, I’ll see him once in a while,” but now it’s like people have been like… the blind faith to say, “You know what, here’s $20, I know that fuckin CD’s gonna be awesome.” That’s blind faith, bro! That’s blind faith! $50, $60, $100, $200. I think that alone speaks volumes, and it’s so much more than friendship. I truly feel like my core fan base, I have strong family ties to them. Everybody always gets a hug, a handshake, a big smile.

AB: Finally, when the heck are you gonna link up with baseball’s Joey Bats, Jose Bautista?

JB: It’s weird because the Blue Jays are in the AL East, and I’m such a diehard Yankees fan. He doesn’t seem to answer any of his tweets. I feel like he’d be upset knowing that I’m out there. {*laughs*}

AB: I think he’d be more upset to hear you’re a Yankees fan.

JB: Yeah, that’s the truth, but hey, if he wanted to play some of my tracks as his walk up music, I would probably buy a Toronto jersey. I might even root for them. I think they have a younger starting rotation than the Yankees.

AB: Is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your music, or the album?

JB: We’re having the big album release party on February 13th (at Sully’s Pub in Hartford, CT), and we’re doing a string of shows shortly after. March is pretty booked solid. We’re gonna stay as aggressive as we can. We really want this to be the album that gets us a lot more plays on mainstream radio.