sonic boom, Drake, J. Cole

Iconic HBCU Marching Band Sonic Boom Joins Drake And J. Cole Tour

The idea to include a marching band was spawned from Drake’s vision to create a sports-themed show.

The roaring sound of the Sonic Boom of the South will be heard in stadiums across North America, as alumni of Jackson State University’s (JSU) signature marching band tour with rap superstars Drake and J. Cole.

The latest leg of the “It’s All a Blur — Big as the What?” tour kicked off Feb. 2 in Tampa, Florida, with the distinct sounds and sharp showmanship of a 24-member ensemble of Sonic Boom alumni. According to Christopher “CJ” Gibson, Drake’s road manager since 2009 and a 2007 JSU graduate and former member of the Sonic Boom, the idea to include a marching band was spawned from Drake’s vision to create a sports-themed show.

Gibson insisted the band should be from a historically Black college or university (HBCU).

“They know I played in the marching band during my college years, so they reached out to me and asked me if I could I help put this thing together,” Gibson told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “To me, it was important that I got an HBCU, but specifically it had to be my alma mater, Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South.”

Gibson linked with his cousin Maurice Gibson, a 2008 JSU grad and fellow snare drum player in the Boom. Together they spoke with the current director of bands, Dr. Roderick Little, who suggested they tap Boom members who had recently graduated. Thus, the touring Boom band is comprised of JSU alums from the classes of 2022 and 2023.

When Maurice Gibson began making calls to potential participants, some were initially skeptical. 

“They were thinking it was a scam. When they hear ‘Drake and J. Cole, all expenses paid, plus compensation,’ they are like, ‘Who is this guy calling me? I don’t know him,’” Gibson said, noting that some called Dr. Little to verify it was true.

Some Boom alumni could not tour due to scheduling conflicts and other obligations. For those who are embarking on the 18-city tour, which lasts through mid-April, it has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

Nathaniel Kenner served as head drum major for the Sonic Boom’s iconic J5, graduating with a civil engineering degree in May 2022. According to JSU, he is continuing his work virtually with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while touring.

“There was joy and excitement,” Kenner said of the first night of the tour. “I was also nervous at the same time, but it was all a good feeling…I wanted to make sure we represented the Boom and ourselves in the best light.”

The Sonic Boom has HBCU pride on full display for tens of thousands to hear and see.

CJ Gibson said the band opens to Drake’s song “Trophies,” known for its blaring horns. They also play a few other hits, including “Search & Rescue,” “Draft Day,” and their own rendition of Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show.”

“I love my HBCU,” CJ Gibson told BE. “That’s what raised me. And the Sonic Boom taught me life lessons and disciplinary lessons. It made me the man I am today, Jackson State especially.”

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