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Influential hip hop photographer Chi Modu dies at 54

The acclaimed photographer Chi Modu, who captured iconic images of some of the greatest figures in hip hop in the 1990s, has died at age 54.

Modu’s death was announced Saturday afternoon on his Instagram account.

‘Our hearts are broken… We continue the fight,’ read a post featuring a photo of the late photographer. 

Defined the look of hip hop: The legendary hip hop photographer Chi Modu has died at age 54. His death was announced Saturday afternoon on Instagram

He was seen beaming joyfully while looking off into the distance.

The post also included a black image with what appeared to be Modu’s signature and his life span: ‘1966 – 2021.’

The post also featured a request for privacy from his family.

So far, no details have been released about the nature of his death.

Saying goodbye: 'Our hearts are broken... We continue the fight,' read a post featuring a photo of the late photographer, along with his signature and life span: '1966–2021'

Saying goodbye: ‘Our hearts are broken… We continue the fight,’ read a post featuring a photo of the late photographer, along with his signature and life span: ‘1966–2021’

Classic: No cause of death was given, though his family requested privacy. Modu's iconic images included the cover of Mobb Deep's 1995 classic The Infamous

Classic: No cause of death was given, though his family requested privacy. Modu’s iconic images included the cover of Mobb Deep’s 1995 classic The Infamous

Modu’s pictures have become an essential part of documenting 1990s hip hop culture, and they’ve been used everywhere from album covers to magazine spreads.

His most famous photo of the rappers Prodigy and Havoc of the duo Mobb Deep.

The closeup image would be used as part of the cover of their hit 1995 album The Infamous, which is now regarded as one of the key text of rap’s East Coast Renaissance. 

He also contributed to album covers from Snoop Dogg and and Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man. 

He also regularly snapped photos of East and West Coast luminaries The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. 

A whose-who of rappers: He regularly snapped photos of East and West Coast luminaries The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, and documented Wu-Tang Clan members, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and many others; seen in 2012 in NYC with Dr. Lee Gause (L)

A whose-who of rappers: He regularly snapped photos of East and West Coast luminaries The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, and documented Wu-Tang Clan members, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and many others; seen in 2012 in NYC with Dr. Lee Gause (L)

After starting at the New York Amsterdam News, Modu got his big break at the hip hop magazine The Source, which commissioned him to take some of his most famous portraits.

He became the director of photography for the publication and shot over 30 covers for the magazine, according to The History Makers

He immortalized a number of rappers, including Snoop Dogg, NWA’s Eazy-E, Nas, various members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Diddy, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Mac Miller, Eminem and Dr. Dre, among many others. 

In 2016 he published the photography book Uncategorized, which featured unpublished pictures of Tupac.

Early start: After starting at the New York Amsterdam News, Modu got his big break at the hip hop magazine The Source, where he shot more than 30 covers

Early start: After starting at the New York Amsterdam News, Modu got his big break at the hip hop magazine The Source, where he shot more than 30 covers

The photographer wasn’t just limited to hip hop photography, as he traveled the globe and took pictures from his trips through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to TMZ

Modu was born in Nigeria but spent his early years in New Jersey, before attending Rutgers University, where he graduated in 1989 with a degree in economics, according to Complex.

He had other plans, though, and also nabbed a certificate in photojournalism and documentary photography from the university.

In addition to his photography for The Source, Modu also contributed to Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

Transplant: Modu, who shot for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, was born in Nigeria but grew up in New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University with a degree in economics and a photography certificate; seen in 2011 in NYC with photographer Ricky Powell (L)

Transplant: Modu, who shot for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, was born in Nigeria but grew up in New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University with a degree in economics and a photography certificate; seen in 2011 in NYC with photographer Ricky Powell (L)


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