In a new interview with The Guardian, Alicia Keys discussed her rise from the New York City ghettos into superstardom. Page Six says the performing artist reflected on her exit from Hell’s Kitchen, which was reportedly a rough place when Keys was a much younger woman.
Amid the release of her latest record, Gramercy Park, which came out on Friday, Keys briefly touched on what it was like to grow up in Hell’s Kitchen before it was gentrified, as well as some of her favorite songs from the record.
On one of the tracks featuring Ed Sheeran, “Underdog,” Alicia referenced the “hustlers trading at the bus stop” and the “single mothers waiting on a check to come.” Alicia said she almost was that person, and she should’ve been in many ways.
Alicia went on to explain in the interview that she was never supposed to leave Hell’s Kitchen. She was supposed to be a drug addict, a prostitute, or a young mother at 16-years-old. The star says it’s one of the reasons why she understands the power of staying on one’s path.
According to the performing artist, every personal song she has ever written was during her “lowest point,” because she was trying to remind herself of the importance of staying true to oneself.
These days, Hell’s Kitchen is practically an entirely new place featuring expensive apartments and more. Keys reflected on the changes, saying how when she grew up there, it was a “very dark, very desolate” place. “That’s why I’ve always been such a tomboy,” the star added, before explaining why she always wore baggy clothing.
Alicia said she learned how to dress in such a way where she didn’t unnecessarily draw the attention of aggressive men. Alicia later released a song called “Empire State of Mind,” which has gone on to become one of the biggest anthems of all time.
The star says she remembers singing the song for the first time in France, and everyone there knew the lyrics. Keys believes the song isn’t really about New York City, it’s about hope and having a dream.