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Fresh off the heels of her self-titled seventh studio album, Alicia Keys did an interview with The Guardian and talked about growing up in a pre-gentrified Hell’s Kitchen.

“The New York that I came from was very dark, very desolate,” the 39-year-old told the outlet. She 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 Grammy-Award winning singer discussed the inspiration behind her chart-climbing record, “Underdog,” which was co-written by Ed Sheeran.


“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.”

Alicia Keys added, “That is why I understand so much about what it means to have the strength to follow your own path. All the songs I’ve ever written that have been considered empowering or uplifting, I’ve written them at my lowest point. Because I needed to remind myself: don’t forget that.”

The Hell’s Kitchen that’s brimming with multi-million dollar apartments is completely different from the neighborhood the singer grew up in during the 80’s and 90’s which was also the midst of the crack pandemic. They “had what looked like movie theaters, but it was all porno places, with hookers on every corner.”