Who was Chi Modu?
Chi Modu was an iconic photographer of the Hip Hop scene who is known for his legendary photos of rap artists like Tupac Shakur. TMZ called him “one of the most famous photographers in hip-hop history,” whose iconic shots of famous 1990s era artists made him a legend.
Modu passed away at the age of 54.
How old is Chi Modu?
Chi Modu was 54 years old at the time of death, May 22, 2021.
Chi Modu Biography
HipHopDx reported that Modu was born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised in New Jersey. The 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.
He 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, 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.
He told that site, “When I was doing it, Hip Hop was still an outsider. The good part about it was that we were a community of outsiders, but we were having fun while we were changing the world. We weren’t welcomed. So, we stuck to our own lane. That’s what Hip Hop did and that created its own lane.
“That’s why I see the difference from what I did to the later years.”
Chi Modu Wikipedia
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.
Chi Modu Death
Legendary hip-hop photographer Modu 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.
— Complex (@Complex) May 22, 2021
“The family request privacy at this time,” the Instagram post continued. His last post before that one came two weeks before his death.
“The pictures stay…‘94,” it read.
Chi Modu Cause of Death
The entertainment site labeled his death “shocking” because of his young age; the details of his death, such as where and how he died, are currently not clear. HipHopDx reported that he may have died from stomach cancer, but this has not been confirmed.
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.”
Chi Modu Obituary
Tributes flowed in on Chi Modu’s Instagram page. Some examples:
“The kindest human being. 💔💔💔”
“I will forever cherish our conversations dear friend. Rare Soul.”
“I’m so sad!!! Rest in peace amazing human 💔.”
“He was an absolute blessing to all of us—a legend in the truest sense. His ability as a storyteller on eclipsed by his kindness as a human being.”
Chi Modu’s website explains, “Chi first picked up a camera while a student at Rutgers. After honing his skills at the International Center of Photography, he landed at The Source, which was the definitive magazine of hip hop culture. It was here that Chi developed relationships with the biggest icons of the hip hop movement, including Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and L-L Cool J, most of whom were not yet famous.”
The bio adds, “In addition to shooting over 30 cover photos at The Source, Chi was able to capture the musicians in candid, unexpected moments, due to his disarming manner and unique perspective. His photos include some of the most groundbreaking, memorable images of that era, including Tupac Smoking and Biggie WTC (standing in front of the World Trade Towers). He not only chronicled and defined the most important phase of the hip hop movement, now a global force, he also was able to define the artists and show them as real people, rather than one-dimensional celebrities.”
Chi Modu Clothing
His page is filled with iconic photos of hip hop artists dead and alive, such as this picture of Tupac Shakur. He also photographed artists ranging from The Notorious B.I.G. to Snoop Dogg. According to TMZ, this Modu photo of Shakur is one of his most famous.
A Mobb Deep album cover in 1995 also gained him fame.
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Chi Modu Book
“Tupac Shakur | UNCATEGORIZED” is a compilation of candid photos of Tupac Shakur taken by legendary documentary photographer Modu.
The photos span the period from Modu’s first meeting with Tupac in 1994 in Atlanta up until 6 months before Tupac’s death in September 1996, when he was shot in a drive-by in Las Vegas after leaving a Mike Tyson boxing match.