Chi Modu

Earlier this week, legendary hip hop photographer Chi Modu passed away. Best known for taking portraits of some of the biggest rap stars in the ’90s he went on to work for prestigious publications like Rolling Stone and The New York Times. The news prompted tributes from Busta Rhymes, Method Man and The Roots’ Questlove, the latter of whom described the photographer as “an intricate part of the hip hop renaissance.”

Modu rose to prominence during the early ‘90s as the director of photography at hip hop magazine The Source, where he documented the genre’s golden age across over 30 cover shoots. Noteworthy subjects included LL Cool J, Dr Dre and Mary J Blige, as well as Nas, Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan. Many were captured during the infancy of their careers before they went on to achieve super-stardom in the years that followed. 

Covers for Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’ and Mobb Deep’s ‘The Infamous’ would define his influence for a generation, and yet Modu’s greatest legacy arguably lies with his black-and-white photos of Tupac Shakur. Iconic images of the rapper, shirtless and surrounded by cigarette smoke, are among a breadth of Modu’s work collated in the celebrated 2016 photobook ‘Tupac Shakur: Uncategorized’, which spans the photographer’s first encounter with Shakur in Atlanta in 1994 to the rapper’s signing for Death Row Records — less than a year before his untimely death in 1996.