Ten years after her breakthrough debut, Alicia Keys is reflecting on one of her biggest hits. The R&B songstress shares that “If I Ain’t Got You” was inspired by the sudden death of Aaliyah.
“‘If I Ain’t Got You’ was also such an incredible song for me, it just means so much. Certain songs change everything. This was one of them,” she said of the single from 2003s The Diary of Alicia Keys. “The song idea came together right after Aaliyah passed away. It was such a sad time and no one wanted to believe it. It just made everything crystal clear to me—what matters, and what doesn’t.”
The piano ballad still holds a special place in her heart. “I remember writing the beginnings of it on a flight somewhere and then finished it in the hotel once I got where we were going,” she added. “It came quickly and I was so moved to write it and it doesn’t matter how many times I sing it, I love it with the same intensity as when I first wrote and recorded it.”
She also reminisced about working with a then unknown Kanye West on “You Don’t Know My Name.” “Here was this new and extremely eager guy who had so much to prove,” she wrote. “I remember the first day we got together to work on what would become ‘You Don’t Know My Name.’ He played me the rough idea of his first hit single ‘Through the Wire.’ He was just as much a ball of fire then as he is now.”
Alicia will release the 10th anniversary edition of her Grammy-winning album songs in A minor on June 28 and perform at this year’s BET Awards.