Wednesday, August 22, HVW8 Gallery and adidas Originals hosted a first look at UNCATEGORIZED, an exhibition of photographs from hip-hop documentarian Chi Modu. The traveling show first opened in Berlin, but has made several global stops since. Still, this week's Los Angeles preview had special significance for the Nigeria-born, New Jersey-raised Modu, who joked that despite his East Coast childhood, the West Coast had always shown him the most love.

Sitting amidst intimate portraits of Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Nas and more, Modu was joined by Snoop Dogg, whom he first worked with when the rapper turned business mogul and show host was only 19 years old. "I wasn't there to experience it, I was there to document it. I wasn't there to judge it, I was there to capture it," Modu explained of his approach to photographing the young Doggy Style rapper and his associates.

This dedication to acting as a conduit of experiences and narrator of foreign realities is part of what makes Modu's photos so resonant, even with the passing of decades. His portrait of a languid teenage Nas perched atop a twin bed in a spartan room inside of the imposing Queensbridge Housing projects has the same composition of a Renaissance era reclining nude. However Nas' cuffed denim, collared Polo shirt and Timbs tell a different story — it's the story of the genesis of hip-hop. On a worn wooden dresser centered in the frame sits a television, video game console and stuffed teddy bear. Above the 17-year-old Nas' head, which rests contemplatively against a wall, is a bullet hole. The juxtaposition between the trappings of childhood and the imposed presence of gun violence, which is inescapable even within the sacred walls of a bedroom, is the sort of intentional tension Modu creates...

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