Commentary

Alicia Keys: Unlocking Alicia (2012 Cover Story)

The first thing you see when the elevator doors open at the Oven recording studios is Alicia Keys’ face, painted floor to ceiling, next to a rendering of the Empire State Building. Her portrait is part of a mural—a kind of musical Mount Rushmore commemorating great New York artists. It’s fitting for a recording studio located on Manhattan’s far west side—not far from the Hell’s Kitchen apartment on 43rd and 10th where Alicia grew up with her mother. To the right are Lennon in his NYC period, Kool Herc, and Jay-Z dressed in his Reasonable Doubt finery. To the left are the O.G.s—Sinatra, Ellington, Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. Alicia will tell you the mural wasn’t her doing, that it was commissioned by her engineer, Ann Mincieli, with whom she rebuilt the studio over the past couple of years. She doesn’t like to seem immodest. These artists are legendary. Then again, so is she. When Alicia made her debut at age 19 she talked about how she would study the greats: Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone. “My dream is to be that good someday,” she said in 2001, and she’s still as focused as ever. “I’m competitive with myself in the sense that I want to get better,” she says now. “It’s not that I’m obsessively dissecting myself, but there’s a critique that happens. I am very driven. I’m not comparing myself to other people. I don’t wanna be like her or him. I want to be my best.” CONTINUE READING…

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