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CNN  — 

Osmic Menoe was a young kid in South Africa when he first fell in love with hip-hop culture during the late 1980s, at the height of the country’s anti-apartheid movement. But like so many, at first, he didn’t even realize what it was.

“I got into the culture visually … seeing murals seeing people spraying graffiti,” he explained. “I used to like making different sounds with my mouth. I didn’t know that’s called beatboxing.”

Menoe grew up to realize the elements of hip-hop that he loved went hand-in-hand with history and culture across the continent. “Africa is the beat, Africa is the soul,” he said.

Yet little had been documented about the origins of the genre there, or the people who took it to new heights.

“What’s going to happen when all these individuals pass away, and no one remembers the story?” Menoe said. It inspired him to start the South African Hip-Hop Museum in Johannesburg, and the Back to the City Festival.

“We can capture all these stories so that future generations can know what all these people were doing and be inspired,” he said. “The world has been operating on African [cultural] resources, not just on our minerals.”

2023 marks what’s considered by many to be the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, but the origination of the genre continues to be one of the most debated topics in all music. Although most enthusiasts agree the birthplace of hip-hop was in the New York City borough of the Bronx, many believe the artistic foundation of the genre can be traced back to Africa.

With such a rich history, CNN set out to track down the answer to another timeless hip-hop debate: which really came first? Did Africa influence hip-hop culture? Or was it influenced by the culture?

From Africa to the Bronx and back