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Acclaimed Hip-Hop Photographer Chi Modu Passes Away at 54, Family Asks for Privacy

Christell Fatima M. Tudtud
May 24, 2021
08:10 A.M.

Legendary hip-hop photographer and documentarian Chi Modu, known for his iconic photos of the biggest hip-hop stars, has passed away. He was 54 years old.

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Nigerian-born photographer Chi Modu has died, his family recently announced. Modu, 54, was considered one of the most influential photographers of all time.

Expressing grief on the late photographer's Instagram account, one of Modu's family members wrote, "Our hearts are broken... We continue the fight."

Chi Modu at his self-titled exhibition opening at Smile Gallery on March 29, 2012 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

Chi Modu at his self-titled exhibition opening at Smile Gallery on March 29, 2012 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

The family, who posted Modu's signature, did not disclose any information regarding the photographer's death. Instead, they requested privacy while they mourn.

Modu began his remarkable career at New York Amsterdam News, an organization based in Harlem, after graduating from Rutgers University in 1989.

He later became the director of photography at The Source, a magazine known for featuring the hip-hop culture. He was also able to shoot 30 covers while working for the company.

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Modu's work with The Source helped shape his career as a photographer. He became friends with the biggest names in the hip-hop industry, including Nas, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, and LL Cool J.

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He was also the man behind the iconic photos of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. The hip-hop culture fascinated Modu who said in a 2019 Coveteur interview:

"Not just the middle of it, I was one of the catalysts. To be able to be there at that stage [of The Source]—it defined my career."

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In addition to capturing phenomenal images of influential rappers, Modu was also shot the famous album covers of hip-hop stars Mobb Deep, Black Moon, and Method Man.

In 2013, the renowned photojournalist began an art project called "Uncategorized." He displayed his stunning images on selected New York City buildings.

Besides him, Ricky Powell, another hip-hop photographer recently died at 59 due to heart failure.

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As to why Modu named his New York City art project "Uncategorized," he previously explained that its purpose was to challenge the culture of labeling and make a statement against all forms of stereotypes.

The acclaimed photographer's work was also displayed in numerous exhibitions, including Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Hutchins Gallery.

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The late artist's art project made waves in Finland in 2014, where it became part of a central exhibit at the Pori Art Museum. Two years later, he published a photography book titled "Tupac Shakur: UNCATEGORIZED."

Modu's death was the latest blow to the entertainment industry. Besides him, hip-hop photographer Ricky Powell recently died at 59 from heart failure. He was closely associated with the hip-hop group Beastie Boys.

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