Who was Chi Modu? Legendary hip hop photographer who shot images of Tupac, Biggie dies at 54: 'We lost a major one'

His pictures of Tupac Smoking and Biggie posing in front of the World Trade Towers went on to become the most-talked about photos at the time

                            Who was Chi Modu? Legendary hip hop photographer who shot images of Tupac, Biggie dies at 54: 'We lost a major one'
Chi Modu (Instagram @chimodu)

Legendary hip hop photographer Chi Modu, known for documenting iconic hip hop images passed away at the age of 54. His family shared the sad news on his official Instagram account saying, “Our hearts are broken... We continue the fight. The family request privacy at this time" The caption was accompanied by a photo of him along with an image of his lifespan in years, i.e. 1966-2021. The reason behind his death has not been revealed yet.

If as a hip hop lover, you loved the iconic images of rappers like Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Diddy, LL Cool J, Wu-Tang Clan, Eazy-E, and various others, then you will probably know the man behind the lens. His images also got popular as the cover of various albums and in the form of t-shirts.
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Who was Chi Modu?

The Nigerian-born New Jersey-raised photographer made his name in the hip hop circle for documenting the defining years of hip hop. Before getting popular among the rappers, Chi graduated from Rutgers with an economics degree in 1989 and received his certificate in photojournalism/documentary photography three years later. Chi landed his first job photography gig with the Harlem-based New York Amsterdam News and with his dedication and hard work, he later became the director of photography for renowned hip-hop magazine The Source. Shooting for more than 30 covers, some of his legendary photos featured Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige. His pictures of Tupac smoking and Biggie posing in front of the World Trade Towers went on to become the most talked-about photos at the time.

In 2016, Chi Modu explained his approach towards photography in a Medium post saying, “When I set out to take these photographs I knew they were important. I wanted to make sure the images stayed within the community. I wanted to make sure the person who created them was from the community.” He continued, “Historically that never really happens. Most of the visuals of the greats are owned and controlled by other people. That’s tricky because then they can put their interpretation on it.” Chi concluded, “But when you look at my photographs, I’m there with them. I’m one of them even though I’m an observer. I was close enough to live it and I had the skills to document and record it”, as reported by Complex





‘Rest easy the GOAT of photography’

Chi Modu was certainly an influential figure in hip-hop as his news of passing away left many social media users devastated. Sharing their last respects on Twitter, one of Chi’s close friends said, “Rest In Peace to a true legend. One of the kindest souls I have ever met. Grateful our paths crossed & for our friendship. Your art will live forever. Thank you @chimodu Rest easy my friend.” One user tweeted, “Wow RIP @chimodu smh... We lost a majorone.” The other person said, “I hate that I recognize these legendary shots yet didn’t know the great hands behind them. Rest In Peace Chi Modu.”
The next one posted, “RIP CHI MODU. ONE OF THE BEST TO EVER DO IT,” while one added, “Rest in peace Chi Modu though fr. Icon in the hip hop community. If you don’t know, get to know. Real GOAT.” One hip-hop fan shared, “Damn man chi modu really blessed us. prime definition of completing the task.” One added, “Rest easy the goat of photography. Glad i got to share some thoughts with you,” as another user concluded, “Hip hop and photography are synonymous with who I am, so Chi Modu was always on my Mt. Rushmore of photographers. A giant indeed. He fulfilled his purpose.”