Alicia Keys' favorite year
I was a really young teenager in New York, and it was the best summer of my life. It represented freedom. And it felt like my favorite artists were capturing the world around me in song. It was a powerful time.
There’s a big concert in New York every year called Summer Jam. The show in ’94 was exciting because it was one of my first concerts as a teenager doing my own thing with my friends. The Wu-Tang Clan was on the bill. They were so innovative with their sound, and of course they were really big then.
There must have been, like, 70,000 people at the show. When the guy announced that Wu-Tang was coming on, the entire crowd started chanting ”Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!” I’d never heard a sound like that before. For so many voices to join as one and start screaming out one name? It was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard. I got goose bumps. And I got this feeling like, ”Wow, one day I want people to scream my name like that.” It inspired me to continue on my path as a musician.
It’s funny, I just did Summer Jam 2008, and I brought out Wu-Tang, so it’s come full circle for me.
The Notorious B.I.G. is another of my favorite artists. I really related to him. At the time I had a tape of his first album, Ready to Die. I played it so much that I broke that tape three times, but I kept buying it again and again and again. This is gonna sound weird, especially coming from a woman like me, but my favorite Biggie song back then was called ”Me & My B—-.” He really, really loved this woman in the song. And he found a very creative way to express the drama of a love that’s really deep, that will take you through all of these changes. What was so heartbreaking was that you never expected that, at the end of the song, he would lose his woman. But he took you all the way from beginning to end of the love story. I was so moved by that song. I used to just play it over and over. —As told to Simon Vozick-Levinson