Radio Host Zane Lowe Visiting Artist Alicia Keys Los Angeles Portraits Knight
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1

Alicia Keys Talks about the 20th Anniversary of “The Diary of Alicia Keys” Album With Zane Lowe via Apple Music 1

The incomparable Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 to discuss the 20th Anniversary of her Grammy-winning, multi-platinum, sophomore album, “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” Alicia opens up about her noteworthy collaborations over the years, dives deep into the process of creating “Diary…” fresh off the heels of her Grammy-winning first album, and reflects on how she kept that momentum going for the following album. Later, during the interview, Keys opened up about how her husband Swizz Beatz helps her celebrate her wins and shared how Clive Davis impacted her career.

Alicia Keys: 20 Years of ‘The Diary of Alicia Keys’

Alicia Keys: I’m reflecting back to “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” I’m reflecting back to this being my second offering to the world. There was so much that changed for me. There was so much that was different than it had ever been before in my life. Obviously, a girl born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen in Harlem never traveled like that. You don’t travel like that. Where do you go? You go to Jersey. Maybe you’re going to get to Connecticut. There were not really a ton of places that I had gone to at the time, but thanks to the “Songs in A Minor,” I traveled the whole world.

Here I was kind of coming back. I remember things like washing my dishes, doing my laundry, going shopping.

“You Don’t Know My Name” and working with a young Kanye West

AK: It’s crazy, this record and I love this song so much. And I love how people have loved this song so much, even to the point where all over TikTok, you’ll see people reenacting the entire talking part of the record. It’s incredible. But working with Kanye at that time, he was a baby. We were both definitely babies. I’m still a baby. Exactly.

But at that moment, we were just all passion and all love and it was so cool to be able to experience that moment where we were both just finding out who we were. And so “You Don’t Know My Name,” which definitely was that vibe, I’ll never forget that day in the studio with him. That was the first time.

“Nobody Not Really” was the first song Alicia started to work on and the last song on the album

Radio Host Zane Lowe Visiting Artist Alicia Keys Los Angeles Portraits Knight
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1

AK: I remember that moment so vividly because I was coming from whatever airport, getting into whatever car. There was a boy. He was selling candy. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll buy the candy.” You know what I mean? He was asking me if I would buy some candy. Then I was like, “Yeah, I’ll buy the candy from you.” I started asking him about himself. “What’s your name? Where are you from? Where’d you grow up?” I just asked him all these questions. His energy and his vibe at the time, I wonder if he remembers this the way that I remember this, but his energy and vibe at the time, I could tell that things weren’t the easiest for him. He had been through a lot.

I also remember just feeling like who was asking him anything about his life? Who was asking him what he had experienced or caring about what he might be losing sleep over or scared about or anything like that? I remember leaving that moment with that young man, and that’s what made me write “Nobody Not Really.” The first line is, “Who really cares when I talk, what I think, what I feel? Nobody, not really.”

That was just what I felt, and even for myself, people care about what benefits them, but a lot of times people aren’t really actually interested in what you are really going through.

Clive Davis

AK: Listen, I learned a lot from him. I’ve learned a lot from him and I really appreciate [him]. He said to me one time, he interviewed me and he said to me that he always approaches everything with “How can I?” he’s talking, how can I ensure the win? He’s making sure that everything he puts his hand on is going to win. Every single thing. He’s going to make sure that every [“i” is dotted] and every “t” is crossed. I learned a lot from when he said that because I think a lot of the time as a human, definitely as an artist, a lot of times we are just reacting to what’s happening to us as opposed to ensuring that whatever is coming our way is by design.

What happened after Alicia won her first Grammy Award?

AK: We were so shocked that I don’t even feel like we celebrated like that. I remember after the Grammys, that first Grammys, I remember we all just went home. I remember I sat in my hotel room. I was just like … Because it just felt like that. What are you supposed to do? It’s a shock. It’s shocking. It’s literally shocking. I don’t know that we celebrated as much as maybe we should have even because I think I learned how to celebrate myself more way later. Way later, I started to celebrate, and that was more.

Swizz Beatz teaches Alicia how to celebrate herself more

AK: Swizz taught me that. He definitely taught me that. You know, he’s right. You do have to take a moment to give thanks and be grateful. Enjoy the times that you have to enjoy because it’s rare that you get those moments.

The difference between Alicia’s first two albums “Songs in A Minor” and “The Diary of Alicia Keys”

Radio Host Zane Lowe Visiting Artist Alicia Keys Los Angeles Portraits Knight
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1

Man, so much was different between that first one and that second one between, “Songs in A Minor” and “Diary of Alicia Keys.” The second one, I was just starting to discover who else I could be beyond what I thought that I already was. I wasn’t ready to really be fully that person because it was new. If you even notice down to the details, it was the first time I… “The Songs in A Minor,” my hair was all braided. In “Diary,” my hair was half braided. Again, that was just me even first experimenting with what does it feel like when I change this. People knew me so specifically for cornrows.

It was a big, big thing. I spent hours and hours in my day braiding my hair. It was like a special ritual. You know what I mean? To become who I already was, but this kind of presented a version of myself. Then I started to undo that, and in a lot of ways I was undoing what I thought that I was and discovering who I was becoming.

Classical music and Alicia’s classical training

It’s a pain in the a**. It just is. I know. I feel it is, but there was also like, yes, the action of practice, practicing anything, a practice that you’re dedicating yourself to and having to be dedicated to in order to find momentum in… Is definitely highs and lows. You have the joy of accomplishing something that you never thought you could at the beginning. In the beginning, when I would open these pieces or try to play them, I was so scared of them. I was terrified of them. You have to see the black-and-white notes on the page, and they look endless. There are 16, 18, and 25 pages of music that you need to get through in order to complete this entire suite or this opus. Or whatever it might be, or these movements. At first, I’d be terrified, but as you find yourself pushing yourself through one measure at a time, I’m going to learn these two measures. And I’m going to learn these next two measures, and then I’m going to put them together.

“Heartburn” and working with Timbaland

AK: I cannot believe this, but I’ve really only made one record with Timbaland. But “Heartburn” is such a special energy. It really does capture the soulfulness of Timbaland. I’ve always loved Timbaland’s songs, and I think that there’s such a frenetic energy that he captures in even the most soulful ways. It just doesn’t make sense. Today, Swiss will be on the phone with Tim and be like, “Yo, listen to this.” And Tim will be in the studio doing something crazy. I think just being in that space with him and being able to create and take that moment, was so simple.

Keeping the momentum from “Songs in A Minor” and bringing that energy into “The Diary of Alicia Keys”

AK: I definitely saw my own growth between “Songs in A Minor” and “Diary” vocally. Vocally, because it was the first time that I toured so extensively, and the first time that I was able to really understand what it takes. Probably the first time I was able to watch myself and say, “Ooh, we got to be tighter with this or better with that, or.” You don’t get to see that if you’ve never done it before. And so I really grew a lot from that experience, and I saw myself really growing. And part of what I think is one of my writing techniques is that the song is always going to be a little bit out of reach.

“Diary” was an anomaly. It was definitely writing itself on the “Songs In A Minor” tour. And I would sit down every day and I would be like… And I knew it came naturally. And I couldn’t write it for the whole time, I couldn’t write it. The chorus were there and I knew they were so beautiful, but I didn’t know what they wanted to say.

Alicia Keys – “The Diary of Alicia Keys” album

Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys album cover art

We recommend adding songs from Alicia Keys’ “The Diary of Alicia Keys” album to your favorite contemporary R&B playlist. Also, let us know how you feel in the comment section below. Mel Blanc’s famous catchphrase, That’s All Folks! Thanks for reading another great article on Bong Mines Entertainment – the hot spot for new music and positive entertainment news. Always remember that (P) Positive, (E) Energy, (A) Always, (C) Creates, (E) Elevation (P.E.A.C.E). Contact us on social media via Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, and let us know what’s going on. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, purchase our merchandise, and become a Patron of Bong Mines Entertainment. Disclaimer: This post contains Apple Music affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link on this page, we will collect a small share of the sales. That little compensation will be used towards keeping this website up and running.

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