Chi Modu, legendary photographer who masterfully captured so many Hip-Hop icons of the 1990s, died on Saturday (May 22) at the age of 54. The news was announced via Modu's Instagram page.
“Our hearts are broken… We continue the fight,” read a caption that also listed his year of birth and death. “The family request privacy at this time.”
Modu's images of artists such as 2Pac, Nas, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Dr. Dre and more have become a part of Hip-Hop lore. His work would grace the pages of Rolling Stone and The New York Times. Born in Nigeria and an alum of Rutgers University, the New Jersey-raised photog began his career at the New York Amsterdam News before becoming a mainstay at The Source. It was there that Modu shot over 30 covers of rap stars of the era, including iconic pics of The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac Snoop Dogg, LL COOL J, and Mary J. Blige. In 2016, Modu released Uncategorized a book of previously unseen Tupac Shakur photos.
"No photographer captured rap icons of the 1990s like @chimodu " tweeted Ghostly. "Present on both coasts (and in-between) at the precise moment when hardcore went mainstream, presenting artists simultaneously as real humans and myths, foreshadowing the beauty and tragedy to come. RIP legend."
The reaction to the news of Modu's passing was widespread. You can read some of the statements from peers, fans and artists below.
Organized Konfusion. Rest easy to legendary photographer Chi Modu. His iconic images are ingrained in my memory forever. To me, his photos spoke volumes about feel, and capturing the human behind these larger than life personas. RIP. @chimodu pic.twitter.com/bORcs1paqN
— PHAROAHE MONCH (@pharoahemonch) May 23, 2021
Devastatingly sad news: the sudden passing of Chi Modu—legendary hip-hop photographer, good-hearted friend, talented colleague, kind soul. Rest peacefully Chi, your warm heart and your artistic gifts will thrive in this sphere forever. Love you brother. So many memories… 😢 pic.twitter.com/iztrD0I6YR
— Jonathan Shecter (@SheckyGreen) May 22, 2021
I need everyone to understand that Chi Modu gave us some of THE greatest Hip Hop photos of all time. A true legend gone too soon. 🙏🏽🕊 pic.twitter.com/wqPc3FYluQ
— Chris Heezy Hurtt (@_TheHeezyLife) May 22, 2021
RIP to Chi Modu, the man behind some of Hip-Hop’s greatest photos. A true legend and documentarian. He will be missed. 🕊 pic.twitter.com/jOEslk9ima
— Andrew Barber (@fakeshoredrive) May 22, 2021
🕊🕯 RIP to an icon, @chimodu pic.twitter.com/0536NO0gnX
— Duck Down Music Inc. (@DuckDownMusic) May 23, 2021
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 🙏🏽😔💔🕯🕊 pic.twitter.com/IXT3doPnt2
— FaZe Temperrr (@Temperrr) May 23, 2021
#ChiModu 📸🤎 photographed a lot of our legends as a Black photographer in hip hop culture and I hope we amplify that to the stars. https://t.co/qZeb7Oe0IF
— Joshua Kissi (@JoshuaKissi) May 22, 2021
No photographer captured rap icons of the 1990s like @chimodu. Present on both coasts (and in-between) at the precise moment when hardcore went mainstream, presenting artists simultaneously as real humans and myths, foreshadowing the beauty and tragedy to come. RIP legend. pic.twitter.com/Ftw3Aw3JWP
— Ghostly (@ghostly) May 22, 2021