Alicia Augello Cook was born on January 25, 1981, in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City's Manhattan borough. She is the only child of Teresa (Augello), who was a paralegal and part-time actress, and one of three children of Craig Cook, who was a flight attendant. Keys' father is African American and her mother is of Sicilian (Agrigento and Sciacca) and either Scottish or Irish descent. Named after her Puerto Rican godmother, Keys expressed that she was comfortable with her multiracial heritage because she felt she was able to "relate to different cultures". Keys' father left when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell's Kitchen. Keys said her parents never had a relationship, and her father was not in her life. Although she did not like to speak about her father in order to not feed stereotypes, Keys remarked in 2001: "I'm not in contact with him. That's fine. When I was younger, I minded about that. [It] made me angry. But it helped show me what a strong woman my mother was, and made me want to be strong like her. Probably, it was better for me this way. " Keys and her mother lived in a one-room apartment. Her mother often worked three jobs to provide for Keys, who "learned how to survive" from her mother's example of tenacity and self-reliance.
Keys opened a recording studio in Long Island , New York, called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with her production and songwriting partner Kerry "Krucial" Brothers .  The studio was designed by renowned studio architect John Storyk of WSDG , designer of Jimi Hendrix ' Electric Lady Studios . Keys and Brothers are the co-founders of KrucialKeys Enterprises, a production and songwriting team who have assisted Keys in creating her albums as well as creating music for other artists.