Ricky Smiley, Loni Love and 2 Chainz Were ‘Driving the Legacy’ for the 2023 Honda Battle of the Bands

This past weekend was the 18th Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase (HBOB) and this year’s edition was the first one to take place at an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities). It also marked a return to it being a live event, for the first time since 2020,

Alabama State University was the location and is not too far from Honda’s Automobile Plant which is based in Lincoln, AL.

The theme for this year’s HBOB was, “Driving the Legacy.”

As an invited press member, I had the distinction of driving the latest Honda offering, the 2023 Honda Pilot.

This test drive was remarkably different because this was the first time that I drove a new car in a real-time situation. What I mean by that is that with previous vehicles I’ve road-tested, it was basically a controlled road/path for a short period of time. But, I actually flew into Atlanta, and picked up the Pilot that was waiting for me at the airport. So, I drove more than two hours to Prattville, which is close to ASU, where the Battle of the Bands took place.

The day before the invitational, I got to experience the inner workings of an assembly plant. There, we witnessed all the steps necessary to put together the Pilot as we watched cars being built right before our eyes.

Honda Pilot Alabama Plant
(Image: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.)












Before the Battle of the Bands started, we got a chance to hear some words from the two hosts, who are also HBCU alums that have been supporting the event for several years now, radio host, Rickey Smiley (who is returning home since he attended Alabama State University), and comedian Loni Love (who attended Prairie View A&M University). Smiley took center stage on the field, as Love led the livestream in the stadium.

Both expressed the importance of not only the event but the shared HBCU experience that helped shape them. Especially the importance of the marching bands with their rich history at HBCUs.

Smiley said that the marching bands set the tone for our culture.

“It starts with the marching bands. Marching bands at HBCUs historically, especially when I was a kid, just really set the tone for a lot of our culture. It’s so important, the beat, the rhythm, the dancing, it just sets the tone.”

Love brought up the fact that some of the football teams weren’t that good, so the bands were the reason people would go to the games.

“The thing is that a lot of times, historically, Black colleges didn’t have great football teams, so a lot of times, we go just to see the band. Honestly, it’s a great way to advertise the school. There’s a different way that we march than if you notice, with PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions), they march slower, we hot step!”

Both comedians agreed that everybody would leave after halftime after the band played.

Ricky Smiley Loni Love
(Image: Cedric ‘BIG CED’ Thornton)

The schools that were invited to this year’s showcase were:

  • Morgan State University: The Magnificent Marching Machine made its first appearance at Honda Battle of the Bands
  • Texas Southern University: Ocean of Soul participated for a third time
  • Langston University: The Marching Pride was there for its fourth appearance
  • Alabama State University: The Mighty Marching Hornets buzzed for its seventh invitational
  • Savannah State University: Powerhouse of the South ties ASU for second-most appearances
  • Virginia State University: Trojan Explosion has made the most showings by appearing for the 10th time

Not only were the schools able to showcase the amazing display of talents within the bands, but each university also received a $50,000 grant from Honda to go towards the institution’s music education and career development programs.

The host city of Montgomery also benefited from Honda’s continued support of HBCUs. Honda gave the Alabama city $100,000 in local grants and $20,000 to two nonprofit organizations. Those non-profits collaborated with Honda to create a new mural that was installed on the ASU campus.

The only interruption to viewing the magnificence of the bands was the halftime performance from another ASU alumni, 2 Chainz.

He came through and performed several of his hits while the crowd went crazy.

2 Chainz
(Image: Cedric ‘BIG CED’ Thornton)












In addition to the marching band performances at the 2023 Invitational Showcase, HBOB also included an HBCU College Fair hosted by ASU to connect high school students with representatives from ASU, Savannah State University, and Virginia State University. The college fair enabled prospective college students to meet with marching band and admissions recruiters to discuss admissions requirements, financial aid, student life, and scholarship opportunities. Students who attended the college fair received free admission to the HBOB Invitational Showcase.