And their music, hip-hop, was the social currency of the era, growing in popularity years before the internet or smartphones were widespread.
"Hip-hop was the voice of the streets and it was our version of today's Instagram or Twitter. And the kids were communicating through this music about their love, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations."
And as music was mixed and tracks are sampled, so was fashion, according to Elena Romero, author of "Free Stylin': How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry". "We took the brands that existed in those days and times and gave it our own spin," she told "The Brave Ones."
John's own apparel brand, FUBU (For Us, By Us) was created because John and his friends felt mainstream labels weren't aimed at them. "I just remember standing on that street corner and saying: 'This is For Us By Us. I understand what you want to wear. You understand what I want to wear. And if you're wearing this across the street, and I'm wearing it over here, we silently know that we all love hip-hop," he told CNBC.
Correction: This story was updated to attribute a quote to Elena Romero.