Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands competed with seven other HBCU marching bands in PepsiCo’s National Battle of the Bands.

By Tribune Staff

NASHIVLLE, TN — Houston’s NRG Stadium played host to the 2023 Pepsi “National Battle of the Bands” (NBOTB) on Saturday, August 26.

Over 40,000 attendees watched as eight HBCU marching bands, including Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands, competed in the iconic event while reveling in the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. TSU’s AOB won a GRAMMY this year for their debut record, “The Urban Hymnal,” making them the first collegiate marching band to do so. The win is also a first in HBCU marching band history. “The Urban Hymnal,” co-produced by Sir the Baptist, Assistant Band Director Larry Jenkins, and Dallas Austin, the album garnered the Best Roots Gospel Album award, Kahwit Tela wrote for grammy.com.

Fittingly, the performing artists for the iconic event included Outkast’s Big Boi, Doug E. Fresh, Choppa, Slim Thug, Lil Keke, DJ Mr. Rogers and Z-Ro, paying homage to the genre that defined an era and continues to evolve and inspire new generations of artists. 

The NBOTB is the largest African American event in Texas and is a lightning rod for public attention on HBCUs and the economies of Houston and Harris County. In 2022, the event clocked more than 55,000 attendees, more than 10,000 participants in ancillary events, and over 2,200 band members, the organization reported.

“With the support of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority and the City of Houston, the ‘National Battle of the Bands’ attracts thousands of fans, alumni, and students, strengthening the community’s connection to HBCUs. The event’s creator, Derek Webber, envisions showcasing the vital role HBCU marching bands play in educating aspiring musicians and cultivating future leaders,” the NBOTB website states. “The National Battle of the Bands is on a mission to amplify the exposure of HBCUs and their marching bands, highlighting the critical role they play in fostering aspiring musicians and shaping tomorrow’s leaders. To date, event organizers have generated nearly $1 million in scholarships for participating colleges and universities.” 

While there isn’t an official trophy or award, the exhilarating and unique performances merge tradition with thrills and have become a mainstay of American tradition.

The participating bands at the 2023 Pepsi “National Battle of the Bands” this year included: Texas Southern University, Ocean of Soul; Southern University, The Human Jukebox; Florida A&M, The Marching 100; Mississippi Valley State University, Mean Green Marching Machine; Norfolk State, The Spartan “Legion” Marching Band; Langston University, The Marching Pride; Virginia State University, The Trojan Explosion Marching Band and Tennessee State University, Aristocrat of Bands.

NBOTB reported that in addition to the 40,000 performance attendees, “thousands more attended an HBCU College Fair, and the Emerging Experience Entrepreneur Conference presented by JP Morgan Chase, which focused on strengthening the commitment to closing the racial wealth gap by providing more opportunities to minority business owners. National and local bank leaders conducted a workshop with community entrepreneurs to learn from, connect with, collaborate, impact, and inspire each other.”

For more information about the “National Battle of the Bands” please visit https://www.nationalbattleofthebands.com/ or follow #nbotb.