May 23rd, 2021 // Writer: Shane Allen // Photographer
Photography is so more than just pushing a button. You’re freezing time, you are archiving the past, moments nobody will ever get back. Photos are a way of remembering, a way of holding on to things that have come and gone. So the person taking the photo has a responsibility to portray that moment the best way they can. Photos are what make icons, idols, heroes. To capture the true essence of a person through the photo is so difficult, it’s not just telling someone to say cheese into a camera. For someone to be comfortable around you enough to make them feel at ease, natural and themselves is a blessing and that’s what great photographers do. They freeze a moment in time when someone was truly themselves to show the world.
Today we remember the life of Chi Modu, hip hop’s golden child of photography. Chi is responsible for taking some of the most timeless photos of hip hop's most celebrated figures. Working for The Source magazine in its hay day, Chi had the opportunity to shoot what would later become some of the biggest names in pop culture. Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Mobb Deep, and so many more the list.
Pretty much how we envision the “Golden Age” of hip hop is majorly due to the photos that Chi took. He painted the picture of Hip Hop, something that was once a very small subculture of minorities that to the general public was extremely marginalized and looked down upon, to what is now the biggest genre of music in the world.
Chi’s ability to display how charismatic, how cool, and how real these icons were when they were young is one of the biggest catalysts of spreading the gospel of hip hop to a much bigger audience.
Not only was he able to shoot some of the most iconic names when they were very young, he documented hip hop at its very young age as well. It’s not like now where every white girl and their mother is rapping along to Wet Ass Pussy. Now we get a never-ending stream of photos on our phones and we still demand more. But back then, hip hop wasn’t that important to the general public so there weren’t too many people leaping at the chance to photograph these people. But Chi was one of those people who knew the importance of these rappers and his talent was the force responsible for being able to capture them in a way that the world would fall in love with.
So cheers to Chi, may his soul rest in peace. Thank you so much for what you’ve done for this culture.