Alicia Augello Cook was born on January 25, 1981, in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan, New York City. She is the only child of Teresa (Augello), a paralegal and part-time actress, and one of three children of Craig Cook, a flight attendant. Keys' father is African American and her mother is of Sicilian (Sciacca) and either Scottish or Irish descent. Keys has expressed that she was comfortable with her multiracial heritage because she felt she was able to "relate to different cultures". Her parents separated when she was two and she was subsequently raised by her mother during her formative years in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Keys has 2 younger half brothers: Clay Cook (Branch) and Cole Cook. In 1985, Keys made an appearance on The Cosby Show at the age of four, where she and a group of girls played the parts of Rudy Huxtable's sleepover guests in the episode "Slumber Party". Throughout her childhood, Keys was sent to music and dance classes by her mother. She studied classical piano from age seven, playing composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin, and enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12, where she majored in choir and began writing songs at the age of 14. She graduated in four years as valedictorian at the age of 16.
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.