"I am a superwoman!"
english (New York City)
Why include Alicia Keys in a collection of rap artists? Well, she didn’t only bring her piano to the Grand Central metro station of New York City, she literally brought her piano to the streets. She posed on the piano with her sneakers on the keys. The rhythms of Hip Hop carried her keys since Fallin’, 2001. And key features like Eve and Jay-Z… I guess you see where this is going, it’s a calling – peace.
Alicia is very important to me. Her name resonates in my mind like the name of someone who I had been close with for a long time. I actually kind of grew into my being a woman listening to her. She’s two years older than I – something I realized only recently – which means that when Fallin’, Girlfriend and Gangsta Lovin’ hit air I was my sweet seventeen. And my seventeen were so sweet. And I definitely was run by the emotions of the late teenaged young woman back then. So without really understanding every bit of her lyrics I totally felt like I knew what was going on in all the stories of her debut album Songs In A-Minor. And, like anyone in their teen ages whose first language isn’t English, those parts I couldn’t understand I gladly substituted with wild and deep imagination.
Imagination in itself is a key feature in my relation to Alicia Keys. Or shall I be honest: in my relation to who and what I see and hear in her. Today I feel a bit lucky that I couldn’t afford wearing these millennial styles back then. But dreaming through my afterschool afternoons watching music television until it was time for my shift at the bar downstairs I somehow felt like I wanted to be someone like her.
These definitely were the times when ideas like ever being in New York became part of my universe of prospects. “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of“, even in the remote provinces of germs. Whereas I guess these were my first encounters with the Empire State of Mind as a feeling, like, ages before the homonymous joint was put together by Alicia and Jay, I remember very well how I first listened to the actual song. Today I literally live next door to the respective record store and the whole scene is captured in my memory: the grey and white cover of the record with some deep red highlights or graphics, the black, heavy vinyl, the needle on the plate and me feeling like ‘this might actually be something big’. Yet it was all new, December 2009. Again, due to empty pockets I don’t own that record. But I do own the moment.
Yet again, for the sake of being honest: that moment didn’t necessarily got stuck thanks to the music, even though I wish I could say so. At least, that’s not the whole story. I think it got stuck because I was there with someone who I felt intense with. Turned out it would be nothing but dreams and imagination and a lot of disillusion and mental pain all over me soon after this afternoon. The more I needed Element of Freedom, Alicia’s fourth album, that had just been released, listing Love Is Blind as it’s second title: “They say I’m loosing my mind / I know I’m loosing control.”
The good thing with Alicia is: she is so understanding. With her there is no need to feel bad or ashamed for being week, like, depending and longing as a woman or girl, for all those things that only seem to make sense “If You Really Love Someone” and they don’t know nothing of A Woman’s Worth. I know, only fans know to follow my syntax here. However, I’m not done yet: Dragon Days, Karma and Wild Horses, this beautiful ballad with Adam Lavine… to every of these songs there is a memory of a deep day, a moment of me being in one of these numerous places I made my home over the last decade and a half, reminiscing, dreaming, going through something as a young person, a woman, growing, becoming.
How to not subordinate? How to not be overpowered by an image like hers? Going to the abovementioned record store at my current downstairs. Taking my chrome-white d.i.y racing bike out on a ride through the streets, crossing the bridges at the harbor… that kind of air in my face, that kind of freedom of being just one among many, ordinary, working: I wouldn’t change that for nothing.
Alicia’s music never communicates a call for becoming like her. Rather, her lyrics and music perpetuate the idea of: being yourself is worth the struggle.
(featuring Eve) Gangsta Lovin’ (2001):
(features Angie Stone and Eve) Brotha Part II (2002):
A Woman’s Worth (2002):
How Come You Don’t Call Me (2002):
You Don’t Know my Name (2003):
If I Ain’t Got You (2004):
(featuring Usher) My Boo (2004):
Every Little Bit Hurts (2006):
(features Baby Jam) Ghetto Story (2006):
No One (2007):
Like You’ll Never See Me Again (2007):
Teeanage Love Affair (2008):
Another Way To Die (2008):
Doesn’t Mean Anything (2009):
Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart (2009):
(features Jay-Z) Empire State of Mind (2009):
Un-Thinkable – I’m Ready (2010):
Girl on Fire (2012):
Brand New Me (2012):
Tears Always Win (2013):
New Day (2013):
(featuring Maxwell) The Fire We Make (2013):
live & else:
(MTVUnplugged, ft. Levine) Wild Horses (2005):
The making of “Speechless” featuring Eve, 2010:
VH 1 Storyteller featuring Alicia Keys, 45min live concert (December 2012):
“It’s not about me, it’s about ‘we’.” There is an actual conversation going on in this Hot 97 – Ebro In The Morning interview, three months before she’s due with her second child, (fall 2014):