Chi Modu is like the Getty Images of hip hop photography. Born in Nigeria and raised in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Chi started his career as a photojournalist and soon after leaving college, got a job at The Source heading up the photo department during a fertile, formative time for both the magazine and hip-hop. “I’d been shooting documentary style photography and realized that someone needed to apply the same seriousness of photojournalism to shooting rappers.” he says.
At the time, hip-hop was an outsider’s genre, with photos of steam rollers running over hip-hop CDs in the streets playing their part in the government’s fear-mongering campaign against the culture. It was considered commercially risky and so the only magazines documenting the movement were awash with teen-beat fanzine style photography rather than reportage.