Directed by Sanaa Lathan, ‘On the Come Up’ is a musical drama film that focuses on a 16-year-old girl named Brianna “Bri” Jackson, who is looking forward to establishing her name in the field of rap music. Her main motivation to do so comes from her father’s own prolific career as a rapper. Though initially unsure of her abilities, the teenage artist soon starts gaining fame. However, the dire financial straits of her house combined with the controversies motivate Bri further to establish herself as a well-recognized name in the industry.
Starring Jamila Gray, Sanaa Lathan, and Miles Gutierrez-Riley, the movie explores several aspects of the music industry and family dynamics. Bri’s hopes to make herself a recognized artist is a culmination of her own ambitions and her father’s legacy. Combined with Bri’s relationship with her mother and her journey in the music industry, the viewers cannot help but be entertained by the same! Many fans of the film have expressed curiosity about whether or not the movie is inspired by real-life events, and we are here to answer the same!
Is On the Come Up a True Story?
Yes, ‘On the Come Up’ is partially based on a true story. The film is an adaptation of the eponymous 2019 novel by Angie Thomas. The talented Kay Oyegun wrote the screenplay for the movie, with Sanaa Lathan taking up the role of the movie’s director. The stores depicted in the book and the film do not have many differences. As it turns out, the 2019 book is a semi-autobiographical story that takes several elements from Angie’s own teenage years.
Hip-hop was there for me when it felt like the rest of the world wasn’t. I tell people all the time, as a teenager I hated reading because I couldn’t see myself in a lot of books but hip-hop filled that void for me. Rappers told the stories I saw in myself. Rappers helped me find my voice and to pay homage to that culture so that platform was a blessing to be able to do with this book,” the author told BET. The writer goes on to explain that her own teenage years were far from ideal.
The poor financial conditions of her family made Angie wish to be heard and hopefully bring her family out of poverty. Given her adoration for rap, Angie dreamed of becoming a rap artist. The dream and struggles of a teen Angie Thomas are reflected in Bri’s wants and needs as a person. While writing the original book, Angie also took elements from the real hip-hop world and incorporated them into her story. For example, the gym where Bri goes to battle is called Jimmy’s.
This was based on Eminem’s character in ‘8 Mile,’ and the writer wanted to pay homage to one of the artists she deeply admires through her work. There are also several MF Doom references and mentions of Tupac in the adapted movie for similar reasons. The events in Angie’s 2017 book are set in the same universe as her 2017 debut novel ‘The Hate U Give’ which tells the story of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl. This book was also adapted into a movie under the direction of George Tillman Jr, with Amandla Stenberg acting as the female protagonist.
Needless to say, while Angie may not have succeeded in her ambition to become a rapper, unlike Bri, she has successfully made a prolific career as a writer. Though ‘On the Come Up’ is partially based on the life of Angie Thomas, it does have several elements that many in the audience can easily relate with. The teenage desire of wanting to break away from one’s circumstances and establish themselves as a famous personality is not an ambition that Bri or Angie are alone in. The struggles of Bri’s mother and her desire to help her family also add a layer of realism to the film.
Read More: Where Was On the Come Up Filmed?