Legendary Hip Hop Photog Chi Modu and Snoop Dogg On Their Best Advice for Rising Talents

There's still time to see Modu's rare photos of rap royalty at HVW8 Gallery.

Snoop Dogg in 1993; other images from this shoot would eventually be used for his 2017 album, "Neva Left." Photos: Courtesy of Chi Modu/UNCATEGORIZED

Legendary photographer Chi Modu's latest UNCATEGORIZED exhibit is every hip hop lover's fantasy. Located at HVW8 Plana and hosted by adidas Originals, its white walls are adorned with larger-than-life images of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Easy-E, and more of hip hop's most famed names — but these aren't your average photos.

There are images of Shakur jumping rope and Sean Combs (a.k.a. P. Diddy, formerly known as Puff Daddy) and Biggie Smalls (née Christopher Wallace) eating at a fast food joint, offering a glimpse into some of the previously unseen gems from Chi's photographic archive that are now on display. The exhibit is in its final week and ends this Sunday, September 23.

Notorious B.I.G., P. Diddy, and Craig Mack as part of a Billboard magazine ad campaign for Bad Boy records.

"At my core I'm a documentarian, a storyteller with a camera so I have to make sure to tell you the whole story of the times that I'm photographing," Modu tells us. "Not just the portraits, but also their house, their mother, their whole world, so that's why you can walk through my photographs and get a real feel of what was really going on outside of cover shoots."

The exhibit — part of Modu's wider series that has been shown across the globe — celebrates hip hop's creative energy and honors the impact and the mark these early legends have maintained today around the globe. The photojournalist has experienced this first-hand in his travels: "No matter what, everyone likes this era and these images. It's safe and that's kind of nice to have the stuff that's safe that everybody welcomes. Even the young, most trap rappers still will appreciate this and I like that…It's special." 

Tupac Shakur in LA in 1995.

As for advice to this new generation of emerging hip hop artists, the photographer and longtime friend Snoop Dogg, who attended the show's opening night, both had some words of encouragement.

"One thing about hip hop is that it was driven by people who did what was in their heart," says Snoop. "Nobody told us what to do, we did what we felt was best and we rolled with it and it became a movement and it grew…all over the world so I suggest you just find out who you are and just master that. Be dope and be you."

As for Chi, he said, "As a documentarian, tell the truth whatever your truth is. Just tell the truth."

UNCATEGORIZED is open Thursday, September 20 through Sunday, September 23 from 1 to 6pm at HVW8 Plana.

HVW8 Plana
5416 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036

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