Alicia Keys has a special affinity for New York, the city where she had incredible experiences that have shaped her life.
Alicia Keys was born and raised in the New York neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. She spent the majority of her life in this neighborhood up until the time she attained stardom.
Alicia Keys is especially rooted in New York City. It was here she was discovered at the age of 15 and where she signed her first record deal.
Alicia Keys grew up in a single-parent home in the troubled Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. At one point they lived in a tiny one-room apartment in the city, with her mother struggling to make ends meet.
Her mother, Teresa, oversaw the development of her music education by enrolling her in the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School, also known as PPAS, after discovering her affinity for the piano.
The artsy world which surrounded Alicia at the time was tempered with feelings of insecurity and impending danger while she traversed the streets on her way home from school and piano lessons each day.
In her book, “More Myself” she recalls wearing baggy clothes and doing her best to not be noticed as a girl as a means of protecting herself. This was necessary because, as Alicia Keys said, the name Hell’s Kitchen suggested just that – hell.
New York Influence
Alicia Keys grew up on 43rd Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan. She spent much of her time with her paternal grandmother in Harlem and was exposed to a multi-cultural life as a result of the myriad ethnic groups in the area.
In the book, “Transcending Race in America”, Alicia speaks of the dichotomy of being raised in New York City. In addition to being surrounded by pimps and drug dealers and porn theatres, Broadway was also just around the corner.
To her, this was a world where choice was critical. Going one way or another could spell either tragedy or success.
Connection To The City
Alicia Keys considers New York her home. She has bought and sold real estate in the city and continues to perform in sold-out venues there.
It is also important to her that her children got an appreciation for where she came from – a far cry from the opulence and trappings of wealth in which they were born.
Alicia Keys is the Global Ambassador for the Keep A Child Alive Foundation, a charity which she co-founded and which is headquartered in New York.
Alicia Keys and her husband of ten years, Swizz Beatz reportedly unveiled plans in 2019 to develop an Arts Centre in upstate New York. According to the couple, this is to foster talent and to give back to the community.
Tribute To The City
In 2009 Alicia Keys recorded the song “Empire State Of Mind” with rapper Jay Z.
The song, with a powerful hook, “New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of…”, seemingly recounts both Alicia’s and Jay-Z’s experiences growing up in the city. All the good and bad influences, yet the hope that can be derived from those same experiences.
The song appears on Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, The Blueprint” and made frequent appearances on several best songs of 2009 lists. The official music video features places in New York that are meaningful to the pair.
Alicia Keys recorded her own version of the song, Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down, with only her vocals as part of her fourth studio album.
According to Alicia, this was her interpretation of New York, what the city means to, and how it feels to her.
The concert television special, “Here In Times Square” was spearheaded by Alicia Keys as part of the promotion of her sixth studio album Here was recorded in Times Square in 2016.