Notorious B.I.G. estate sued by photographer Chi Modu

The hip-hop photographer also faces a lawsuit in California, which claims Modu used the rapper’s image to sell snowboards without permission

The Notorious B.I.G., who won rap artist and rap single of the year, clutches his awards at the podium during the annual Billboard Music Awards in New York, in this Dec. 6, 1995 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The estate of the late Notorious B.I.G. is being sued by photographer Chi Modu who is alleging that it is ruining his business and impacting his livelihood.

According to the New York Post, Modu claims the company managing Biggie’s estate labeled him a “parasite” during an ongoing court battle.  The two sides are disputing the amount of monetary compensation Modu should receive for his photography. 

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The image at hand features Biggie Smalls sporting a colorful, Coogi sweater, and a navy blue Kangol cap, pointing enthusiastically at the camera with the Twin Towers standing in the background. The shot, captured by Modu in 1996, is one of the most recognizable photos of the rapper.

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Modu is known for iconic images of not only the Notorious B.I.G. but also Tupac, Snoop Dogg and more. The New York Post reports Modu claims to be standing up for the artist by demanding a living wage for what he deems his photography is worth. Modu aims to earn approximately $100,000 yearly for the estate’s use of multiple images he shot of the Brooklyn rapper who was shot and killed in 1997.

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“Up until then, they were paying much, much less, so you see what’s going on,” said Modu.

He continued “the person who presses that shutter is the owner” of the image. As copyright holder, I’m the person with the first right to exploit it. This is a fight for the artist, because artists aren’t earning a living wage.”

The Notorious B.I.G. LLC also sued Modu in California, claiming Modu had used the rapper’s image to sell snowboards without permission.