Chi Modu, a famous and widely acclaimed photographer responsible for capturing some of the most iconic images in the entire history of hip hop, died on Saturday, May 22, 2021 at the young age of 54.

As of yet, his cause of death is unknown. However, one of Modu’s co-workers has tweeted that he may have died of stomach cancer.

Modus family has let it be known via tweets and Instagram posts that they desire privacy as they grieve.

A Legendary Photographer

Modu was originally born in Nigeria, but moved to New Jersey at a young age and are up there. He attended high school at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrence Township NJ, and then went on to study economics at Rutgers University.

It was at Rutgers that his passion for photography first blossomed. He would proceed to study photojournalism at the International Center for Photography in New York City and would eventually land a job at The Source magazine in the 1990s, where his job would be to take photos of various music stars.

As it happened, his photographs would prove to be legendarily evocative and would grace the cover of The Source more than 30 times throughout that decade.

While working for The Source, Modu was able to hobnob with some of the brightest stars of the hip-hop world of the 1990s, including LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Modu especially had a talent for capturing musicians in unexpected moments of candor and vulnerability.

Merely looking at one of his photographs, one would come to feel empathy and camaraderie with the artist depicted.

Perhaps his most famous images are those he snapped of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. The value and beauty of these images only grew after both of those rap superstars were tragically gunned down under circumstances that remain unclear to this day.

In fact, one of Modu’s photos of the Notorious B.I.G. was famously at an auction last year for a whopping $30,240. The photo was originally taken in 1996 and depicts the rapper standing in front of the World Trade Center.

His other most famous image is of Tupac Shakur smoking during a break in the middle of a photoshoot. Because Shakur was not prepared for that photo to be taken and did not especially pose for it, it carries a special and disarming authenticity.

Other photos of the likes of Snoop Dogg and Method Man only raised Modu’s star even higher.

Now, his friends, family, colleges and relatives mourn Modu’s passing. In particular, Johnathan Schechter, founder of The Source, tweeted “Rest peacefully, Chi. Your warm heart and your artistic gifts will thrive in this there forever. Love you, brother.”