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‘I Was a Little Tiny Bit Embarrassed’: Alicia Keys Says ‘Empire State of Mind’ Almost Didn’t Happen

Alicia Keys and Jay-Z‘s New York anthem “Empire State of Mind” almost didn’t come to be, the singer revealed during a recent interview.

The 39-year-old artist, mother, and wife to super producer Swizz Beatz discussed her new memoir “More Myself: A Journey” in an interview with Ebro of Beats 1 radio, and during the chat revealed that the 2009 hit was a near-miss, thanks to a lack of connection. “That song has had such a genesis. It’s just crazy when you look back at how things come into the world,” she told the host.

Alicia Keys celebrates the release of her book “More Myself: A Journey.”/Photo Credit: @AliciaKeys

“For a minute, it wasn’t even going to come together,” Keys said. “[Jay-Z] couldn’t find me, he couldn’t get in touch with me for whatever reason at the time and, you know, different people in the middle and the whole thing. So he couldn’t even find me and so just imagine that song never even happened.”

Thankfully, she and Jay were eventually able to connect to collaborate on the song, but another small speed-bump soon arose. “I actually cut it in L.A.,” she explained. “I think that was the problem. You’re not supposed to cut a song about New York in L.A. It’s just wrong. On top of that I was sick…like a little sick, but I could still sing, so I did that but you could kinda tell.”

Once her part of the track was cut, however, she still wasn’t off the hook. “After I sent it in … [Jay-Z] hits me back like ‘Could you sing it again?’ … So I was a little tiny bit embarrassed, because who wants to send a song that then they friend is like ‘Mmm…’ and he didn’t want to tell me that either!…then I brought it back to New York, I cut it right … and there it is.”

For Keys’ new book, Jay-Z’s voice is included in the audiobook, which Keys described as “fire. I love the audiobook,” she said during the interview. “It’s been a beautiful experience because each chapter is started by a friend and their perspectives.”

alicia keys
Alicia Keys (Photo: @aliciakeys/Instagram)

The book serves as a raw expression of growth for Keys, through which she hopes to touch others. “I was building my life around this image of perfection, and it was really oppressive,” she writes in an excerpt. “I was clearly a woman who wanted to talk about truth and empowerment and strength, but when I really looked at myself, I realized that my whole life I’ve kind of been putting on a mask.”

Video Credit: Beats 1/YouTube

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