Chi Modu: The Prolific Scribe of Hip Hop

8th October 2021

Chi Modu, of Nigerian origin, was the photographer and curator for The Source Magazine in the early nineties and beyond. For thirty+ years, The Source acted as one of the main publications for Hip-Hop music and “The Culture” based in Lower Manhattan, NYC. You may have seen Chi Modu’s works of Tupac Shakur, Mary J. Blige, and The Notorious B.I.G., globally before they were famous. Chi Modu was there in real-time documenting and making history with candid photos of these artists. Unfortunately, he passed away on May 19th of this year. Without Chi Modu, we would never have known any of these legends as we experience them today.

 

Twitter enabled Micah Ray, creator of token Journalism, to organize and connect people like Enrico Moses, Tom Laroc, Crypto King, and other members of the NFT community on Clubhouse. We were thus able to learn more about how Chi Modu’s never before seen photos of Hip-Hop legends made it to the NFT Space. Some original photos of these artists and others like Snoop Dog are on Rarible, now verified thanks to community-building efforts.

 

A legendary room took place and was recorded on Clubhouse as Chi Modu NFTS: Token Journalism with Micah Ray. You just had to be there! It began with Jonathan Shectar, also known as Shecky Green, a co-founder of The Source Magazine, giving the audience a bit of history with a personal account both before and after having met Chi Modu. He emphasized how before, the publication looked plain until Modu came and curated the magazine in addition to taking photos.

 

 

According to Jonathan Schecter: 

 

“I met Chi in 1991 or ‘92. Chi, just from the top, was an incredible guy, a cool, incredibly chill person. He had like African Roots, an African name, you know. He kinda came into the office with a low-key chill demeanour. He, at the time, was working on a publication called The Amsterdam New, which was a Black newspaper based in Harlem, NYC, and he was their key photographer. When we met Chi none of us really had education in how to make a magazine, in how to do anything, how to run a magazine business, but we just did what came instinctively and naturally to us, understanding the scope of what we were going to cover… So when Chi came around, it was really rare at this time that we were making this evolution to being as mass appeal as… as fad oriented…Before Chi came I would say we were primitive in our initial approach to the look; we didn’t really know what we were doing. 

 

I think Chi helped us do that…You know, photographing a few artists. One of the early iconic… there’s a few; look at any photography galleries of 90s Hip-Hop heroes like Nas, Biggie, Tupac, Dr. Dre… all the big names that are legends right now, the photos that you think about are Chi’s Photos. We were the first to discover Notorious B.I.G. as an unsigned hype cassette, Common, Eminem, and many others…”

 

Chi Modu NFTs are the originals. Some never-seen-before images of Hip Hop Legends. Because he took those photos you see everywhere of Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., and many others. Verified as original from the iconic prolific photographer himself. 

 

Chi understood the value of his work early on and had all of his photos copyrighted. He fought for his work and connected with the family of Biggie and Tupac when doing merchandise. He knew his images would have value before the hype of cryptocurrency.

 

According to Enrico Moses: “Chi was an incredible and talented photographer, visionary, and was in touch with technology.”

 

Chi Modu was brought to cryptocurrency by Moses. According to Enrico, they met by chance one day. Enrico had been selling T-shirts he’d designed of Tupac in Minneapolis,- and walked into a bar off Canal Street in SOHO, NYC. They built a business relationship; and a long friendship over their crafts.

 

In 2013 Enrico asked to interview him about the importance of the e-photos” and intellectual property for Enrico’s blog. Enrico states that Chi felt he didn’t get his homage as a photographer in Hip-Hop culture. A month later, Chi was doing museum shows, saying he’s not doing gallery shows anymore. He was breaking records overseas in museums.

 

On January 3rd, of 2020, after years of supporting each other’s work, they began conversing about NFTS. Chi, who knew the values of his photos, asked, “How am I going to launch my images because I have a plethora of them? Why do I need middlemen?” Enrico answered, “The point of the Blockchain is going directly to your fans.”

 

 

Chi subsequently purchased a plot in Cryptovoxels to display his photos, cut out the middleman, and created a direct space for his fans. Chi Modu’s photo gallery and a video of him explaining his photos in the virtual space are still there on this plot.

 

He created editions of 100. Enrico questioned if Chi selling posters on Amazon was devaluing himself? The CEO of Atari flew to Chi to discuss NFTs. Chi subsequently launched his NFTs on Rarible in November of 2020.

 

People were impacted inside and outside of the NFT space by the community Chi Modu created with his work and energy. Modu really liked to mentor young photographers. Abi Eiis from the same tribe as Chi in Nigeria.  She asked her grandmother if she knew of his family. They were connected for a phone call. She then received help from Chi on her photography assignment and was gifted a Tupac NFT. 

 

There were many personal accounts of Chi’s kindness from Jon Luvelli, Emmy Tompkins, Tom Laroc, and Mark Mangia, among others.

 

JLee Walls brought up an important intention to make sure Chi Modu’s family is being compensated for the royalties on Rarible and all secondary markets which is indicative of the ethos of the community the NFT space is all about and is supposed to perpetuate.

 

Low Sleazy and Jon Luvelli expanded on the importance of Chi Modu’s work and his relationships to people as the added value of NFTS being from the direct source of origin; authenticity and character. Low Sleazy even described Chi Modu as, “A Strategist”.

 

Chi Modu had intentionality with the work he was creating throughout his career. Making his work accessible to his community on the blockchain is one example of this. Following your instincts, intuition, and having the right intentions are important life lessons.

 

The visionary Chi Modu always succeeded in Creative Direction as an artist and curator in “The Culture” of Hip-Hop.

 

Thanks to Micah Ray’s support and the help of many others in the NFT space, Chi Modu’s NFTs were sold out and almost crashed Opensea. 

 

For more of Chi Modu’s NFT work: 

 

His cryptovoxels gallery: https://www.cryptovoxels.com/play?coords=S@96E,390S

 

Rarible

https://rarible.com/token/0xd07dc4262bcdbf85190c01c996b4c06a461d2430:226521?tab=owners

 

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