Photography has the ability to capture a moment and bring about an infinite, nostalgic feeling. The late, legendary hip-hop photographer, Chi Modu, has hip-hop defining photography that is most evident in the 1990s.
Modu, who died earlier this year on May 19 in Summit, N.J. from cancer at just 54-years old, captured unique photos of The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Method Man, Busta Rhymes and many more.
Sony Music is now celebrating his life by sharing this special interview on what would have been Modu’s 55th birthday (July 7). A few months before his untimely passing, Modu sat down with Sony Music’s Certified to discuss his work on the iconic cover for Mobb Deep’s debut album, The Infamous.
Released on April 25,1995, the album cover is a classic in its own right and became synonymous to the story behind the lyrics rapped by Havoc and the late Prodigy.
Upon Mondu’s death, Havoc told the NY Times the story of Mondu spending the day with the duo in their New York City hometown neighborhood in Queensbridge taking photos of them in every day interactions. Havoc recalled that “a huge part of our success was that cover — he captured a vibe that encapsulated the album. To see a young Black brother taking photos of that nature was inspiring.”
“It’s nuts that you can create something from this small community, in this small part of Queenbridge, that goes out to the entire globe,” Modu said to Larry Adams of Certified in the never-before-seen video. “As far as that goes, that’s where we can relate to each other because my pictures do that as well.”
Modu said there were two sessions for the now infamous photos. The studio session, however, ended up being the main shot on the front album cover.
“It was original, just black background, just really showing who me and Prodigy was,” Havoc said during the interview.
Modu played around with the film and brought out a richer feeling to the color construct. Havoc and Prodigy both synergize and contrast each other on the cover, with Prodigy being in “soft focus” and Havoc in “tight focus.”