Sanaa Lathan has graced our screens in cult classics like Love & Basketball, The Best Man, Blade, and many other films that have made Hollywood fall in love with the actress. While we love to see her on camera, the big screen icon pivoted to take on a behind-the-scenes role in On The Come Up, which serves as her directorial debut.
According to the official synopsis, the film will follow the story of Bri (Jamila C. Gray), who is a gifted 16-year-old lyricist attempting to take the battle rap scene by storm to lift up her family and do right by the legacy of her late father — a local hip hop legend whose career was cut short by gang violence.
In this exclusive conversation with REVOLT, Lathan reveals the film that let her know acting was the career for her, her favorite lyricists, and the Renaissance song she currently has on repeat.
While “on the come up,” was there a show or film you landed that let you know you were on the road to greatness?
I would have to say Blade. While it wasn’t a lead role, it was important because I was playing Blade’s mother. At this point in time, Wesley Snipes was on top of the world — he was the biggest star, and I remember seeing the movie in the theater at the premiere, watching all the characters on the big screen, and thinking how I have a shot at this.
Who is your favorite lyricist of all time?
Now it’s hard to say of all time. I like Nas, Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z, Rapsody, Nicki Minaj. I really like Doja Cat, Tierra Whack, and of course Lauryn Hill.
If you could put two artists in the ring for a battle rap-styled Verzuz, who are you choosing?
Maybe JAY-Z and Nas.
In the film, Bri has a collection of albums from industry greats. What are your go-to throwback and contemporary records?
There’s so many right now. I would say The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for a past album. As for my go-to album in today’s time, I would say Renaissance… Beyoncé just went there. I’m loving the album.
What song do you have on repeat from Renaissance right now?
“Church Girl” as of right now.
You drop it like a thotty Sanaa?
I’m learning (laughs).
I’ll teach you (laughs). As you look at your entertainment peers in music, whose come-up story was a treat for you to watch unfold?
You know what I’m loving right now? I’m loving all these female rappers in the game because we haven’t had it. All these women are coming up and showing out — there’s space to have more than one. From Megan Thee Stallion to Cardi B, Doja Cat, and so many others — the industry is making space with all this talent, and that’s what is exciting to me.