The Alicia Keys that we love and adore today was born Alicia J. Augello-Cook on January 25, 1981 in New York City, New York. Keys` mother Teresa Augello who is of Irish and Italian heritage worked as a paralegal and an actress. While, Keys` father Craig Cook, who is of Jamaican descent, was a flight attendant. Keys` parents separated when she was just two years old.
Teresa Augello raised Alicia on her own in New York City`s infamous Hell`s Kitchen; an area of New York City with a rough and gritty reputation. Keys would pick up the piano at a young age. She started her classical training at the age of seven studying the works of Chopin, Mozart, and Beethoven.
After only 3 years of high school, Keys graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 16. Keys was nominated as Valedictorian of her graduating class.
Following high school, Keys made the decision to drop out of Columbia University to pursue her dream of a career in music. Initially, Alicia originally chose Wild " as her stage name, but changed it to Keys " at the suggestion of her manager Jeff Robinson.
Things looked bright for Keys when she landed a demo deal with Columbia Records. Working under Columbia Records, Keys made an appearance on the Men in Black soundtrack in 1997 with the single Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing). " At Columbia, creative differences with label executives left Alicia feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. As a result, Keys ended up leaving the company with the aid of Clive Davis who, at the time, was the front man for Arista Records. Davis had bought Keys out of her contract with Columbia.
Creative differences with label execs would continue to follow Keys at Arista Records. The Arista heads wanted Keys to follow in the footsteps of fellow Arista label mates Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey while Keys desired to be her own self. Fortunately, for Keys she would get her way after jumping ship to Clive Davis` very own label J Records. Davis started J Records after leaving Arista Records over a disagreement with his former employer. With Keys in the driver seat and with complete creative control over her own music at J Records, Alicia would release two singles " 2000`s Rock Wit U " on the Shaft soundtrack and Rear View Mirror " on the Dr Dolittle 2 soundtrack in 2001 " before catapulting herself into the spotlight.