Alicia Keys Reveals That She Almost Didn’t Feature On Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State Of Mind’

performs onstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 23, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Alicia Keys Reveals That She Almost Didn’t Feature On Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State Of Mind’

“..He didn’t want to tell me that either. But it was kind of necessary.”

Published April 10th

Written by Danielle Ransom

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ iconic New York anthem,“Empire State Of Mind,” will always be held up as a hip-hop relic. But, in a new interview, Alicia revealed that the collaboration almost never happened.

  1. On Thursday (April 9), Alicia spoke to radio veteran Ebro Darden via FaceTime for Beats 1. At the time, Alicia said that she learned Hov had been trying to get in touch with her awhile, to no avail, and almost gave up. Eventually, they were able to connect, but there was another problem. At the time, Alicia was in Los Angeles when Jay sent her the track for her to record her vocals on. The Grammy-winning singer and pianist admitted her vocals weren’t at 100 percent as she was feeling ill at the time. However, she also felt that recording a song about New York from the West Coast threw off the whole vibe. Nonetheless, she laid down her part on “Empire State of Mind” and rushed to send it back to Hov. But, there was one major issue that caught her off guard.


  2. “[Hov] hits me back like ‘Could you sing it again?’ I was like ‘What?!” Alicia exclaimed to Ebro, adding that he also asked her to throw in some ad-libs. “I was a tiny bit embarrassed because who wants to send a song and then their friend is like ‘Hmm’? And, he didn’t want to tell me that either. But it was kind of necessary.” 

    Fortunately, as fate would have it, she was back in New York by that time, feeling much better and was able to re-record her parts there.

    RELATED: Alicia Keys Recalls Devastating Details Of Her Topless Photoshoot At 19 Years Old

  3. Later in the interview, the Grammy-winner singer and pianist also recalled the first time she met Kanye West during the recording of her R&B classic, “You Don’t Know My Name.” 

    “I bet that was a movie,” Ebro joked. 

    “He was just off ‘Through the Wire’ [in 2003],” Alicia recounted. “When we went in there, he played that original sample for ‘You Don’t Know My Name.’ It was myself and another writer named Harold Lilly, and John [Legend]. We did that initial thing. And later on when we got back together, he was like ‘Alicia you should put a [talking] part in the song.’”

    She then described how Kanye came up with her iconic interlude on the spot. Alicia went into the booth and just free-styled something from the top of her head. “For me, it’s one of my all-time favorites because it [was] such a unique special thing [that] came together,” she told Ebro. 

    Watch her full interview with Ebro for Beats 1 below: 


(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Clear Channel)


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