alicia keys’ artistic light is so bright it could illuminate a pitch-black room. A true musical prodigy whose multi-dimensional gifts emerged at age five, the beautiful Alicia has taken modern R&B soul to a whole new level at the tender age of nineteen.
alicia keys was born aware of her old soul yet living in New York’s inner city amidst the dominance of Biggie and Jay Z, alicia keys’s natural talents blossomed into a rare mix of hip-hop flavor and insightful, wise-beyond-her-years songwriting. Coupling this with the singer’s spine-tingling vocal power, positively stirring live performances and expertise as a classically trained pianist, alicia keys could be this generation’s Roberta Flack. Highly sought-after by record labels that held good, old-fashioned bidding wars in her honor, alicia keys signed to Arista Records in 1998. There, in the spirit of a genius like D’Angelo or Prince, she continued the process of writing, producing and recording the debut she’d begun penning at age 14.
In late 1999, alicia keys followed Clive Davis to his new J Records where she continues to chart her arrival to the music world. Creations now rising out of the studio show signs of both a critical and commercial monster - a deep, melodic, soulful gem of an album that showcases alicia keys in all her universal glory. Though most of the album - including the luminous "Fallin'" and the moving "Troubles" - was written and produced by alicia keys, the artist collaborates with Jermaine Dupri on "Girlfriend" and with Isaac Hayes on "Rock Wit U" from the "Shaft" soundtrack. Her debut album, "Songs in A Minor," was released in June 2001 in the USA, and July 2001
Born and raised in Manhattan, the stunning, bi-racial alicia keys recognizes a number of influences including her ultra-supportive mother who told her "You can quit anything else but you can never give up on your piano lessons." alicia keys also sites a teacher at the Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan who, while she was majoring in Choir, gave her valuable instruction on her voice. "This teacher spent so much time with me, she became the closest thing to vocal training I received," alicia keys recalls. At age 16, alicia keys’s outstanding grades allowed her to finish high school early. "I was so deeply involved in music, I had already outgrown all the pressure of high school cliques and gossip." Right out of high school, Columbia University accepted alicia keys and though she gave it a whirl, the desire to focus on music was the driving force over all else.
When you think about music, beauty, intelligence, and creativity, who comes to your mind? Well, most of alicia keys fans will say she is all of the above. alicia keys has captivated audiences from black to white, young and old, old school to new school, and alicia keys's just getting started. Born and raised in New York, alicia keys was destined to make it big. At the tender age of 7, alicia keys was introduced to the piano. alicia keys studied classical music from Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin (which was her favorite) and delved into such jazz greats as Marian McPartland, Oscar Peterson and Fats Waller. By the age of 14 alicia keys wrote her first song "Butterflyz" which is featured on her latest album "Songs in A Minor." Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway, were all her inspirations as were Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z and Wu Tang. alicia keys took all of those different genres of music and rolled them all into one, to create a style all her own.
The road to success wasn't an easy one. Born to a white mom, Terri Augello, and a black dad, Craig Cook, alicia keys grew up in Hell's Kitchen, New York. "It was kind of a cool spot, but 42nd Street then was no heaven. Prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers," recalls Keys. To cope with the street life, Alicia turned to piano-playing at the age of 7. alicia keys attended the Professional Performing Arts High School and rehearsed with vocal coach Conrad Robinson at the Harlem Police Athletic League Community center until at age 16. During this time, alicia keys graduated as her high school valedictorian and was accepted to attend Columbia University. Conrad introduced alicia keys to his brother Jeff, alicia keys's 'batman", who began searching for the right label. Right before starting college, alicia keys signed her first deal with Columbia Records, and had to make the difficult decision to leave college in order to pursue her musical dreams. However, alicia keys later left Columbia Records due to creative differences. alicia keys felt they were intruding upon her artistic freedom, and she wanted out. "I wanted to experiment a little more and find my own voice." At age 19, alicia keys's wish came true when Clive Davis, who headed up Arista Record at the time, came up with the money to buy Keys out of Columbia and had the same vision as alicia keys. alicia keys had found a new home with Clive Davis and when he established his new label J Records, alicia keys moved with him. Finally, she had a home; a place she could be herself.
Next came the fierce marketing campaign. Davis says "Fallin' fell between the charts at radio - but it was her signature song. So we had to get around radio." Her big break came when Oprah Winfrey agreed to have Keys on the show. After a dynamic performance of Fallin' with 40 million people watching, the number of albums being shipped for the week of release doubled. The June 26, 2001 release of 'Songs in A minor' debuted at number 1 on the charts and after 29 weeks, and continued to remain in the top 20, going over 7 million times platinum worldwide. Her first single "Fallin" ended the year at No. 2 on the Billboards Hot 100 chart, spending weeks at the number 1 spot.
Since then, alicia keys has graced the covers of over 15 magazines from Rolling Stone to Essence, appeared on countless TV shows, and recently completed part one of her solo tour, which sold out venues everywhere. As if that wasn't enough, she has taken home a VMA, two Billboard Awards, two American Music Awards, two NAACP Image Award, Three Soul Train awards, two World Music Awards, one ECCHO award, and oh yeah and who could forget the FIVE Grammys. all by the tender age of 21. With countless achievements all around the world Alicia is still as humble and real as they come. The world waits for more, as she is ready to give more. "I plan to be in this business for many, many years." Her drive for her music and creativity will only lead her to bigger and better things. For those who wish to follow in her footsteps she has these kinds words for you "Always believe in yourself no matter what anyone else says." What's next for alicia keys? Short term, her second album is scheduled for a 2003 release as well as developing and producing talent with her partner "Krucial" Brothers, for their company, Krucial Keys Enterprise. However, short term isn't exactly what alicia keys has in mind. "When I'm 31, watch me. When I'm 41 watch me. When I'm 51, oh don't hurt 'em too bad cuz you know I will!" alicia keys is here to stay.
If you were to ask alicia keys what she did today she'd probably run down a long list of odds and ends that may seem like only a superwoman could carry out, but this 21 year old musical virtuoso isn't one to brag or rest on her laurels. This humble and wise-beyond-her-years musician will tell you how getting to where she is today wasn't a spontaneous, overnight, right time and right place success. She'd tell you that she had to work hard and fight, but above all, she had to believe in herself and her first true love...her music.
"Hold up, let me try something real quick," alicia keys declares in the middle of the piano intro for the hidden track "Loving You" on her much-acclaimed debut CD Songs in A Minor, before launching into the soulful, Aretha-style powerhouse ballad. The first thing a listener notices is her voice (a deep melodic sound that can only be described as pure velvet), which dominates the songs as it accentuates each word of the wise-beyond-her-years phrases. Keep listening. What else do you hear? The piano chords in the background: never missing a beat, never slowing down. With a commanding presence at the piano, Keys accompanies herself, seamlessly blending her background of classical influences with modern soul/hip-hop hooks.
The rough New York neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen is the foundation from at which alicia keys began to hone her skills as a singer/songwriter/producer. It was here, in a small one-bedroom performing artists' complex where alicia keys and her single mother, Terri Augello, planted their roots. The stunningly beautiful bi-racial beauty was born to a white mother and a black father, but being "mixed" proved to pose no obstacle for alicia keys, "I was never confused or had issues. I grew up in New York. There's a little bit of everybody there. It really doesn't matter because I accepted and loved both sides. I claim both sides." Not only was there every type of person walking the streets of New York City, but there was also every type of music being played in her house. alicia keys grew up listening to the likes of Beethoven, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, U2, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Jay Z, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby Caldwell. All of these musical influences along with alicia keys' own musical style would later merge to form a sound like no other.
alicia keys first became aware of her gift of music at the tender age of four. alicia keys auditioned for the part of Dorothy in her kindergarten's version of "The Wizard of Oz" and her teacher realized that she had a voice that needed to be heard. Not only could she sing, but there was also an automatic attraction for alicia keys to the black and white keys of the piano. The blossoming love of the keys was there, but it wasn't until she was seven that she took that fascination to the next level the professional level. Money and resources may have been tight, but alicia keys's mother, working as an actress/paralegal, made sure her daughter was able to study the very disciplined Suzuki method of classical piano. By the age of 11 alicia keys had bitten off more than she could chew, "I was doing too much. I virtually had a mini-breakdown!" She confided in her mother and, after counseling with alicia keys's piano teacher, Margaret Pine, Terri gave her daughter the advice that we are all thankful for...she told alicia keys that she could stop the other creative outlets, but she had too much talent to forgo the piano.
In her pre-teens alicia keys was part of a 4-girl group calling themselves "Embish'n," rehearsing day and night at the Police Athletic League on 124th Street, with Conrad Robinson as the group's vocal coach. She was the lead singer and she also played the keys. But it soon became evident that the manager she was with at the time wasn't interested in the fact that the girls wrote, played, and sang, but was more driven by the fact that he had four young ladies that were easy on the eyes. Not a moment too soon, Conrad introduced alicia keys to his brother and her present manager, Jeff Robinson. All of this excitement and chaos came even before Alicia was old enough to drive.
While attending Manhattan's premier Professional Performing Arts High School, alicia keys was an 'A' student by day and a performer by night. She played numerous showcases around New York just to get her foot into the door. "We wanted people to see that I played piano and sang." Even with the pressures of trying to make it in the music industry Alicia still managed to graduate as Valedictorian of her high school class at the age of 16. Upon graduation alicia keys was signed to Columbia Records. Fairy tale ending right? Not quite. As Alicia got deeper into her record production she began to realize that Columbia Records might not have been the best choice to call home. True ulterior motives were beginning to show. Executives wanted her to conform into their ideals of a 16-year-old in the industry. Alicia, refused to give in to the watered down version of her true self, sited "creative differences" and with a CD of recorded songs, she and Robinson hit the pavement once more in hopes of finding a record label to call home.
Although this was a time of doubt, frustration and uncertainty, alicia keys was now free to shop around for a new deal, while continuing to perform showcases. One showcase in particular caught the eye of the Arista Music Man himself, Mr. Clive Davis. alicia keys was 17 and performing around, including a spot on BET's Teen Summit. Finally, after years of struggle and let downs Alicia, through a supportive Mr. Davis, was given full creative reign of her career. "[Clive Davis] didn't try to divert me to something else. I wanted to be who I am. I didn't want to be made into what somebody else thinks I should be." alicia keys now had creative control, but she couldn¹t unpack right away. After being ousted from Arista Records, Clive Davis took Alicia and a handful of other artists with him to his new label, J Records. While Davis built up his new empire, Alicia wrote songs and performed at local New York shows to gain exposure. Waiting was just another barrier Alicia was forced to plow through. In the two years between being signed with J Records at 18 and her album being released at 20, Alicia was able to grow as an artist. Being caught in limbo may have been frustrating, but Alicia took the advice of her Nana, who often said, "that nothing worth striving for comes before its time."
Now, despite a roller coaster beginning, alicia keys has gone platinum several times over with her debut CD "Songs In A Minor". She has taken home every award imaginable including the music industry's most coveted award, the Grammy. Not only did she take home the "Best New Artist" Grammy, but she also swept the show with four other wins including "Song of the Year" for her blockbuster debut single "Fallin'", "Best R&B Vocal Performance", "Best R&B Song", and "Best R&B Album". As awards are gained by the armload, this humble and down-to-earth young woman still takes it one day at a time. With the support of her family, close friends, and loyal fans, the future of this legend-in-the-making is destined to be long and bright. Although her talent got her where she is (on the cover of many magazines and in the hearts of music lovers), Keys credits the love of her fans for helping her succeed. Keys writes in a message to her fans on her official website, "I will NEVER take that for granted!!!!!! Believe me.²
Now, in order to expand and build, she's deep into reading authors like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Toni Morrison, and autobiographies of musical great Quincy Jones and Assata Shakur, a political activist. She still plays piano every day, classical, jazz and old school, for inspiration. She also studies piano lessons at least once a week, and is continually writing and producing for herself and other artists through her company Krucial Keys Enterprise, along with her partner, Kerry "Krucial" Brothers. Plans and future dreams include establishing their own label, artist development and of course, making album #2 an intriguing, innovative and exciting musical collection! And that's just the beginning! Alicia says of next 30+ years of her life, "I'm 21 now. When I'm 31, watch me. When I'm 41, watch me. When I'm 51, Oh don't hurt 'em too bad 'cause I will!" These bio's were contributed by: Lauren Zumpano, Marine Terteryan, Katrina Lewis, and Juanita Hays.