Drumline is a 2002 film directed by Charles Stone III. The screenplay, which was inspired by the life of Dallas Austin (one of the producers of the film) was written by Tina Gordon Chism and Shawn Schepps. The story is about a young drummer from New York, played by Nick Cannon, who enters the fictional HBCU Atlanta A&T University and bumps heads with the leader of his new school's drum section. Leonard Roberts, Zoe Saldana, and Orlando Jones, playing against type in a more dramatic role, co-star in the picture.
The film opened to generally positive reviews, particularly towards the energy and playing of the musical bands in the film, as well as Cannon's performance, which is considered to be his breakout film role. It was also a success at the box office, earning over $56 million dollars in the U.S., and almost $1.2 million in the foreign market.
The movie starts with Devon Miles (Nick Cannon) graduating from high school in New York City. He is the best drummer in the senior band and frustrates his teacher by modernizing the band's rendition of "I Believe I Can Fly". Upon graduation, Devon heads to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the fictional Atlanta A&T University, a historically Black university that takes enormous pride in its marching band. Later it is revealed that Devon was personally invited to attend on full scholarship by Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), the head of the marching band at A&T. The A&T band separates itself from its competitors by requiring all band members to read music, by focusing on various styles of music rather than what is popular on the radio, and by their dedication to the teamwork-emphasized "one band, one sound" concept. The band has a preseason that is similar to an athletic team's induction in that it is very physically and mentally difficult and challenges all recruits to push themselves past what they previously thought were their limits. At the end of preseason, the musicians must audition for spots on the field (ranked P1 through P4) and Devon is the only freshman to make P1, the highest level player. While going through his rigorous process, Devon finds time to romance an upperclassman dancer, Laila (Zoe Saldana).
Things seem to be going very well for Devon, he has the girl, he has a spot on the field, but things start to go wrong when the percussion leader (Leonard Roberts) challenges him to take a solo in his first game, saying to another upperclassmen, "he'll freeze up like any freshman." He is shocked and offended when Devon takes the solo and humiliates the section leader. This sets up some tension in the drumline which is exacerbated when Dr. Lee is told by the college president to change his focus from music to entertainment or lose his funding. Lee doesn't want to give Devon a solo because he feels that Devon's attitude and respect are lacking. The situation further deteriorates when it is revealed that Devon cannot read music. The final straw is that, in a drumline standoff at homecoming, Devon incites a melee with the visiting band. The fight is started when Devon leads the line in using their sticks to play on the visiting line's drums (a serious insult in drumline mythos). This fight also harms his relationship with Laila as she is now embarrassed to introduce him to her parents. Because of his part in starting the fight, Dr. Lee kicks Devon out of the band.
Devon is hurt by this rejection and tries to pretend he isn't bothered by it. He contacts Atlanta A&T's rival school Morris Brown College, to discuss playing for them the next year. The rival band leader says that Devon doesn't need to know how to read music (something Dr. Lee insisted on) and will likely get a full scholarship and a good position on the drumline. Things appear to be going Devon's way again, but when the rival band wants to know what Dr. Lee is planning for the BET Big Southern Classic (a large competition of college bands), Devon learns that his honor and his heart are still with the band he was kicked off of. He rejects the scholarship offer from the rival band and returns to A&T.
Though Devon is still not playing for the band, he can't give up his drumming. He is sent cassette tapes from his estranged father and gets some ideas for new drum arrangements. He and the senior drummer have a final confrontation that clears the air and they begin working together. They present their ideas to Dr. Lee who decides they will be used during the Classic. Devon helps the drumline prepare and patches up his relationship with Laila.
At the Classic, the other bands are shown performing a mixture of popular songs. Morris Brown's band even gets rapper Petey Pablo to perform during their routine. A&T is not fazed by this and goes out does their performance of mixed retro and current sound. A tie results and the Morris Brown and A&T drumlines face off. Dr. Lee tells Devon he can play for this face off, showing his faith in Devon's improved character and in thanks for all the hard work he had put in getting the band ready for the Classic. Morris Brown goes first and A&T responds. Morris Brown's second cadence includes their snares moving forward and playing on the A&T drums then throwing down their sticks. It was a similar situation that started the fight that got Devon kicked out of the band. The A&T line holds their composure in the face of this insult and comes back with the gloves off. They play their cadence and in the middle throw down their sticks, mimicking the Morris Brown actions, but then the entire line pulls out another set of sticks and continues playing. They end their routine up in the faces of the Morris Brown drumline, but instead of playing on their drums, the line drops one of their sticks onto the other drumline's drums. The judges award the win to A&T.
|1.||"D&K Cadence"||A&T Drumline "The Senate"||0:28|
|2.||"Been Away"||Q "The Kid" feat. Jermaine Dupri||3:50|
|3.||"I Want a Girl Like You"||Joe feat. Jadakiss||3:59|
|4.||"Blowin' Me Up (with Her Love)"||JC Chasez||4:50|
|5.||"Club Banger"||Petey Pablo||3:49|
|6.||"Faithful to You"||Syleena Johnson||3:30|
|9.||"My Own Thing"||Raheem DeVaughn||3:58|
|10.||"What You Waitin' For"||Nivea||3:35|
|12.||"I'm Scared of You"||Nick Cannon||4:00|
|13.||"Shout It Out"||Too Short & Bun B||4:47|
|14.||"Let's Go"||Trick Daddy feat. Duece Poppi and Tre + 6 & Unda Presha||4:11|
|15.||"Marching Band Medley" (Let's Go/Uh Oh/Bouncin' Back/I Told Y' All/In The Stone/I Want You Back/Shout It Out March)||Bethune Cookman College Marching Band||4:04|
|16.||"The Classic Drum Battle" (Destruction/No Draws/X-Factor/Hot Sauce)||Morris Brown College Drumline||4:04|
|17.||"I Want You Back"||Jackson 5 Marching Band||2:58|