Music News

Alicia Keys reflects on working with Issac Hayes, “one of the most amazing arrangers and producers of all time”

James Bailey

June 5th marks the 20th anniversary of Alicia Key’s 2001 Grammy-winning debut album, Song in A Minor

In an exclusive commentary video from Tidal, Keys reflected over recording one of her favorite tracks from the album, “Rock Wit U,” with the legendary Issac Hayes, who passed in 2008. 

“Isaac Hayes was one of the most amazing arrangers and producers of all time, period,” Alicia declares. “And ‘Rock Wit U’ was definitely inspired by his style of creating music — that real ’70s energy, that ’70s vibe, a lot of kind of guitar. You had strings, and you had long intros, and you had very dramatic music around the song.”

Keys admits she was a young artist at the time and didn’t understand the production side of music. Yet once she wrote the song, she knew she wanted Hayes to work on it. The now-40-year-old remembers recording in a “big space” in New York City, where she “got to bear witness to the genius of Isaac Hayes as he arranged the most beautiful arrangement of strings I ever heard in my life.”

“I was in awe,” the singer-songwriter continues. “I felt so blessed to be in that space, and I said if I never do anything else and if I never meet anybody else, I was able to meet such a hero, and I was able to meet him before he passed away.”

Keys just released a 20th-anniversary edition of Songs in A Minor, which includes two previously unreleased tracks, “Foolish Heart” and “Crazy (Mi Corazon).”

Tidal will share more commentary videos Saturday featuring songwriters, producers and music executives, including Jermaine Dupri, Kandi Burruss, Kerry “Krucial” Brothers and Peter Edge.

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