Flashback: Alicia Keys at 22

Cynthia McFadden talks with the singer about New York roots, music and race in 2003 interview.
9:27 | 11/19/12

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Transcript for Flashback: Alicia Keys at 22
New York has nurtured many great musicians -- it's time. One of the brightest new talents -- -- Lisa -- who grew up right around the corner from here on 42 street when it was still paying very rough neighborhood. She is pianists from homeless -- pretty. -- ranger and 500 winner not -- It is a bit of an urban fairy tale. Imagine -- little girl growing up in New York's hell's kitchen in a one bedroom apartment with her mother. Her father leaves which used to and there's not much money but there it is a big talent. -- -- Then -- nineteen. The dream comes true. It. -- -- -- -- -- -- When wolf -- can name you -- So hopefully cool and collected -- Completely. Not that you were forbidden to collecting. I did not that -- -- As the person. And -- don't trip and business I don't stripped from him. So far not a single. Mr. Diversity -- and just -- pavement it once bought and sold a staggering. And confidence very. Now two years later with the release of her second CD of the diary of Alicia Keys. The question on everyone's mind is can -- do with again. Yeah. But -- if you believe she could do it. The first time. We could've fallen between the chips -- this incredible -- Urban radio was asking for a sold more -- Public radio was saying it is to urban. There's only shown a presentation. Music legend Clive Davis found another way to introduce his newest artist. John a collective right OK she's the one who set who sent me a letter and a tape and said you need to hear this girl Alicia Keys. Yes I did write a letter to Oprah I didn't ever written a letter to Oprah before and I -- -- pieces the most vital. Young singer songwriter. In the world today. Rarely has a newcomer lived up to the height the wait -- Lisa -- -- and she should acing her first single call balding. -- -- paying seeing. -- cerner. -- Appearance on hope for was pivotal. Because she stunned. America has no less dramatic way of saying it. And -- The following Tuesday. Her album came out it and -- the charts at number one. -- -- -- -- -- -- When did you become -- shoulder. I'm -- -- discovered. That if -- so why keys keys is of course the instrument aptly but it's also. No peace in molasses. Unlocking pains in the lives and should meet in the doorway may need to rings and -- Newton. Unlocking things exploring them even difficult things you write a news on the new York New York Times. Meant to you get dark. New York -- jungle in the it's. It's place. And I grew up forty seconds. Forbes is coming. -- was -- -- -- and prostitutes could give the UN schools kids should engage in how. It was -- 24 hours a day of Great Britain. On the -- Patsy who -- on the streets. Okay. Okay. At the same time there was Broadway. There was creativity. There was. Excitement is lights there's life. And -- staying put until one. Has shaped me as a woman definitely. The jarring contrasts -- new Yorker not lost on the leash. For her grace class and suffering are -- an extra. You identify yourself as an African American woman absolutely. Yeah and my mother is Italian. Father is African American -- mixed economics. And from me I definitely. Embrace. All sides of alliance but as society. Isn't color blind -- society isn't colorblind and therefore society was -- accidentally as an African American and -- that I am. -- Which brings us back to her music. She's an artist with uncompromising point of view combining universal themes with sometimes painful urban landscapes. Those themes. From the videos on your first. Cindy were very powerful. Years love object is in prison. Oh yeah. There's family dinner where father leads. With the little boy tried to comfort his -- I think that happens from. This is what they're taking in as to how to be a man how to -- won't -- a woman goes so when a woman would tolerate. It's heavy and it's -- thoughts. -- thought she was able to turn into music and into an award winning video. At eighteen. Davis even letter produced. There -- times that you -- very young person and you know that you can't believe the huge because they -- maturity they have unbelievable perception and inside. She is one of those where you. -- -- -- Militia began performing as a young girl. -- age sixteen she graduated first in her class at New York's prestigious school of performing arts. And that same year he had big decision. To move by herself to Harlem. And have always been alone I have always been someone had to walk the streets into had to do alone. And that must be you know. Devastatingly frightening for a mother and I'm her only child that's I'm she has and she's I have my. That's it that was our family -- -- me you know it interest in the idea of not really having a father. Not really -- his daddy everybody's -- father of medical what has that right. Exactly it was that. A big issue for you. Don't know exactly how I feel about that time -- I usually actions and accidentally speak on me because I'm still. Working for what I feel but. Has definitely differences and -- -- in the -- if the imminent. Almost. -- home since. Just 22 she continues to work through how she feels about many things but time -- his -- what's the perfect day. Not perfect day and tweaking. My concern me. Really late. At 3 o'clock. Right. Then leaking onto the rain. It's raining outside the breezes coming in under the company's but the book. You -- think if we don't have gotten through we have got to work today. Yeah international. Star would -- under the covered with a book. We're getting to know his talented funny passionate woman. Calls the piano her friends. And New York. Her home. Her name. Is -- should -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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