Family and musical background
Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook to a Puerto Rican and Italian mother, Terri Augello, and a African-American father, Craig Cook, in Manhattan, New York, and was raised in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. She began playing piano when she was seven, learning classical music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and her favorite Chopin. She wrote her first song "Butterflyz" at the age of fourteen; the song was later recorded for her debut album. Keys' mother and father separated during her early childhood, thus she was raised by her mother during her formative years; her mother was the one who most supported her during the time she was developing her musical talents. It has been reported by the press that Keys reconciled her relationship with her father . However, Keys has denied this but says she does not hold on to negative feelings towards her father .
Education and early career
Keys graduated as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School, a public high school in Manhattan at the age of sixteen. She briefly attended Columbia University on a scholarship before devoting herself to a full-time musical career. Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def label, then distributed to Columbia Records. She wrote and recorded a song entitled "Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)" which appeared on the soundtrack for the 1997 blockbuster, Men In Black. The song was Keys' first professional recording, it was never released as a single and her record contract with Columbia Records was ended quickly and Keys later met Clive Davis who signed her to Arista Records, which has since disbanded. Following her mentor Clive Davis to his newly-formed J Records label, she recorded songs "Rear View Mirror" and "Rock with you" which featured on the soundtracks to the movies Shaft (remake) and Nutty Professor: The Klumps respectively, both the films and the soundtracks were released in 2000. Keys then released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001, the title being a reference to both her classical aspirations and to the fact that she wrote most of the songs at a very young age.