Alicia Augello Cook , better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, is an American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. Keys was raised by a single mother in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York City. At age seven, Keys began playing the piano. She attended Professional Performing Arts School and graduated at 16 as valedictorian. Keys released her debut album with J Records, having had previous record deals first with Columbia and then Arista Records.