Atlanta’s legendary Georgia Dome is in the wake of seeing its final days before closing its doors, and ending a chapter that will forever be etched in the historical climate of the city. Before it makes the transition into a new football stadium {whose construction is currently underway and progressing very rapidly{, it is still home to some of the hottest events to hit Atlanta. One event in particular feels like a scene right out of Nick Cannon’s cult classic, Drumline.

The Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) is an annual marching band exhibition that features performances from bands of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Sponsored by the American Honda Motor Company, the Invitational Showcase takes place inside the storied Georgia Dome during the latter party of January.

2016 Honda Battle Of The Bands Lineup

On Saturday, January 30, over 63,000 attendees of all ethnicities and backgrounds showed up with smiles in tow, full of excitement as they watched some of the most prestigious HBCU’s in the nation go for broke via Honda’s annual competition that highlighted the eight bands who were privy to be amongst the Final 8.

This year’s inclusions were the Alabama A&M University “Marching Maroon & White;” Alcon State University “Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite;” Bethune-Cookman University “Marching Wildcats;” Jackson State University “Sonic Boom of the South;” Lincoln University (Philadelphia) “Orange Crush Roaring Lions;” Prairie View A&M University “Marching Storm;” South Carolina State University “Marching 101;” and the Tennessee State University “Aristocrat of Bands.”

Honda Battle Of The Battle 2016 Drumline

The Power Of Dreams

For over 25 years, the auto giant has been actively contributing to the perpetuity of historically black colleges and universities; working with over 20,000 students (of which some 2,000 were in attendance), donating over $10 million dollars to support various education initiatives for HBCU’s, and consistently exceeding the expectation each year by integrating performances from some of today’s hottest musicians such as Hip Hop legend and action film extraordinaire, Ludacris.

The Honda Battle of the Bands Celebration Tour takes place between the months of September and November at regular season football games, although Honda Battle of the Bands (and its abbreviations) is often intended to refer only to the invitational showcase, which first took place in 2003. Seemingly contradictory to the name, Honda’s “battle” is not a competition in the traditional sense; that is, no winner is crowned during the event. Rather, the bands compete for the favor of the audience, each other, and the greater community.

This year was no exception as Honda’s HBOB 2016 event employed a notable benchmark. For the first time in the history of the event, attendees saw the first ever HBOB mass drumline and all of the action was being streamed live in real time.

Ludacris, Master Of Ceremony

Moments before Lincoln University was about to take to the field, Luda took a moment to answer a few questions and share his thoughts on the importance of supporting HBCU’s, the importance of participating in events like HBOB.

While speaking directly to HipHopDX, the Grammy Award-winning entertainer touched on how the HBOB contributes to the overall musical landscape of today’s entertainment culture.

“You have students getting scholarships of course because of things like this, and like I was talking about the discipline aspect of it, some of these students go on to become producers and make their mark not only in Hip Hop, but in all genres of music nowadays,” he tells us during the pre-dance press conference.

He continued, “That’s something that’s extremely important to understand.”

As Matt Sloutstcher of Honda’s corporate communications team rallied a few more questions, the decorated rap star then expressed his elation on being able to perform at the event at the height of its popularity.

“I’m just happy to be here man, I always wanted to come to the Honda Battle of The Bands,” he said when asked about his temperament of the afternoon. “I made it to a couple of ‘em, and of course one of my best friends in high school went on to attend at Alabama A&M as a matter of fact. So, just the musical element of this and all of the discipline that these bands go through, is just amazing and I just love everything about this competition. The students coming together for this cause, just all of it, I just love it man and I’m just here to support in any way that I can and, I’m very honored to be performing here today and be a part of the program.”

2016 HBOB Ludacris

Game Time

Moderated by respected radio personality Ryan Cameron of Atlanta’s V103 radio station, though the Final 8 hosted bands from all over the country, gauging from crowd reaction, it’s safe to say that Texas-based Prairie View A&M and Lincoln University (Philadelphia) arguably stole the show. Lincoln University (the newest band to the competition) proved that being green doesn’t equate to lacking in skill. They kicked off their HBOB debut performance with The Gap Band’s classic “Outstanding” and would go on to perform timeless material like Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Carlos Santana’s “Maria Maria,” Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up.” At one point during their performance a soloist miraculously played two trumpets simultaneously.

Not one to be outdone, Prairie View A&M took to the field in meticulous formation performing hits like C-Murder’’s “Down For My Ni**as,” and Dru Hill’s smash “We’re Not Making Love No More,” before going out to even spell out the name of certain songs right before they performed them. Keeping in line with tradition, Prairie View A&M had an energy that was absolutely electric, yet very crisp with mint condition coordination.This was definitely a performance that could bring a little swag to Carnegie Hall.

Also taking to the field were the Dancing Dolls of Lifetime TV’s hit show Bring It On, R&B superstar Musiq Soulchild who performed his debut single “Just Friends” and follow-up hits “Half Crazy” and “B.U.D.D.Y.,” all of which were welcomed by a slew of adoring female fans. Quite the comedian, Cameron had everyone erupting in laughter by way of his comedic banter. He then encouraged two rounds of the entire stadium doing the wave just a few moments before DJ Skillz and DJ Baby Yu (also of V103) would go head to head in an old school vs new school disc jockey competition that divided the stadium and took the energy to a completely different level.

Musiq Soulchild 2016 Honda Battle Of The Bands

After a very brief intermission, the moment that everyone had been waiting for was finally here. Taking to the stage to perform some of his biggest hits alongside actor Steph Jones (Selma and currently starring as the lead in the Jesse Owens biopic, Race), Ludacris switched gears and went into full on performance mode and took over the stage. During his performance of fire such as “Move B*tch’ and “Get Back,” Luda effortlessly commanded everyone’s attention and had the crowd on their feet as he reminded everyone of exactly why he is regarded as one of the most successful entertainers in the history of Hip Hop.

By the end of the evening a few more bands would make their way onto the field to close out the night, but not before Rico Barrino and Colonel had the opportunity to win the crowd over by way of their new T.I. and Young Dolph featured single “California,” with Cortez Bryant (manager to Lil Wayne), getting a front row seat of the performance.

Honda also honored Ms. Barbara Andrews, a middle school teacher and South Carolina State University alumna, with a $15,000 scholarship grant for her work in raising awareness of the chronic autoimmune disease lupus and tirelessly supporting her students and community.

Barbara Andrews

It’s truly amazing to see persons of interest whose influence is unmistakeable, take time to generously do their part to ensure the continuation of entertainment culture. The efforts help change the stereotypical vernacular pertaining to Hip Hop musicians and rerouting public opinion that leads to a final destination of positivity.

For more information on Honda, visit its official website.