Alicia Keys said that growing up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan had an indelible impression on the person she became in an interview published Friday.
“The New York that I came from was very dark, very desolate,” Keys, 39, told the Guardian.
Raised in the ’80s and ’90s in the western wing of Midtown, Keys said she “had to always wear something very baggy, very dark, always had my hair back; I felt like if people saw me, they might try to touch me. That’s why I’ve always been such a tomboy.”
The golden-voiced Grammy-winner behind “Girl on Fire” and “No One” described the juxtaposition between the Hell’s Kitchen of her youth and nearby Broadway as “this weird dynamic of the have-nots and the maybe-possiblies.”
This spring, Keys climbed the charts with “Underdog,” a stirring song about urban poverty. She told the Guardian that the lyrics describe herself and that many of her most uplifting anthems have emerged from moment of despair.
“I am that person,” she explained. “The one that wasn’t supposed to make it out of Hell’s Kitchen, who was supposed to end up being a prostitute, a young mother at 16 years old, or addicted to drugs. I am the one who was supposed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got injured or killed.”