In On The Come Up, Bri (Jamila C. Gray) works hard to make it as a rapper, following in her late father’s footsteps. She frequently participates in rap battles in ‘the ring’ taking whatever money she wins home to her mother, a recovering addict (played by Sanaa Lathan) and her brother, who has left school to support the family. When she gets the opportunity to record with big producers, Bri jumps at the opportunity, only to discover that success this way comes at a cost to her integrity.
On The Come Up (which is based on the book by Angie Thomas and is Lathan’s directorial debut) asks
what lengths we’re willing to go to in order to ‘make it,’ and if the success really is worth it. It calls out
injustice; and the lack of authenticity that can exist in hip hop, where artists lie about their lifestyles
because that appeals to a bigger audience. It also highlights the importance of a good community. Bri is surrounded by people who support her in every way, are not afraid to call her out, will sit with her in her lows/when she’s being mean and will celebrate her wins like they were theirs. Those are the best people to have in your corner.
I called this film a more mature version of Let It Shine, and if you’re around my age and watched that film when it came out, you know that I mean that in the best way possible. I love seeing a good rap battle and the ones in this film are a lot of fun (shoutout to the lyricists of the original songs in this film!) and I can’t wait to get the full soundtrack so I have new material to add to the one woman shows that I put on in my room.
On the Come Up premiered at TIFF ’22. For more information, click here.