happens when you have a producer with Hip-Hop origins and a young girl
with a phenomenal voice and piano skills? You have the music of Alicia Keys and her creative partner Kerry Krucial
Brothers. Together they are KrucialKeys, a music and media company as
well as the driving force behind the Keys success.
from being an invaluable entity to the music of Alicia Keys, Krucial,
as he is often called, has also worked with a number of other artists such as Keyshia Cole, Shareefa and the newly-controversial Nas. Hearing Nas mentioned with Krucial, who is known mostly for his R&B
efforts may have some Hip-Hop heads a bit skeptical right now.
according to Brothers, he is 100 percent Hip-Hop. Born in Brooklyn and spending
a lot of years in Harlem and starting as an emcee, Brothers is trail-blazing in ways unheard
of. He affirms that doing Hip-Hop got him everywhere he is today.
That even includes his crossing paths with Alicia Keys and the production
of her timeless masterpieces.
busy and on the cusp of Alicia Keys latest LP release As I Am
(November 13th) found the time to sit down with AllHipHop.com.
During our diatribe, he made it clear that Hip-Hip is the core in which
everything else just naturally followed. Not to mention how he feels
about those infamous rumors that himself and Alicia are an item.
AllHipHop.com: How did
you know that you were meant to produce and make music?
Krucial : I never really realized it
[early on] when I got into music. I was an aspiring MC as a kid and
I got into Hip-Hop when I heard it out in the streets. I used to work
with different producers and always give my input like it should
sound like this or like that. Eventually I couldnt find any material
[to flow to] so I just started making my own [beats]. People would hear
my beats and want them. It kinda gradually happened. Working with Alicia
[Keys] and having her feeling it and making songs that are now history
let me know that, Hey I really am a producer.
your successes, how have you kept your feet to the pavement and continue
to make exceptionally good material?
Krucial :The love of it. The love of
creating songs and arranging them a certain way. Im one of those
people who really love music. I try not to get caught up with what rewards
come with it. The music is a reward in itself.
AllHipHop.com: What are
some of your influences?
Krucial : Old Soul definitely. I grew
up listening to a lot of Soul, R&B and Funk. My parents kept albums
in rows on the living room floor. As a kid Im on the floor with my
chin in my elbows watching TV but seeing nothing but albums [around me]. So I got curious started listening to them. But [growing up] I
listened to [Bob] Marley, Bomb Squad and Dr Dre. People that do something
different inspire me to do my thing.
you consider yourself to be Hip-Hop. Do you think that your R&B
work waters down and/or brings out the Hip-Hop side in you?
Krucial : Hip-Hop influences me so much.
If you think about where Hip-Hop started we sampled from Soul and R&B.
We [sampled] the rawest and funkiest part of the track. [A lot of times
I am] creating something that could have been made in the 60s or 70s,
however Hip-Hop gives it that [modern day] big beat. It doesnt water
it down, [Hip-Hop] lets me expand more.
AllHipHop.com: In saying
all that, what type of producer do you consider yourself to be?
Krucial : Everyone looks at me as an
R&B producer. I dont see myself that way, its
just music. Im definitely Hip-Hop all the way. To me Hip-Hop is a
blend of all different music genres that arent supposed
to be brought together and thats the kind of music that I like to
AllHipHop.com: Do you
ever incorporate the flow from your hip-hop side along with R&B?
Krucial : Its embedded. Some people get
on 50 or Ja Rule about singing on [Hip-Hop]. People have been singing
AllHipHop.com: What personal
characteristic of yourself do you feel has allowed you be so successful?
Krucial : Im very humble, have God
in my life and feel blessed. I do have talent but God gave me this talent.
I think that consistency and mastering my craft has also made me. I
can do this [producing] thing but I can do more. I have so many other
things to accomplish. That came from something that my parents have
always instilled in me. [Which is] you cant be the best at anything
unless you put time into it everyday.
AllHipHop.com: In what
stage of Alicia Keys career did you meet her?
Krucial : In the very beginning, way
before there was an Alicia Keys. I met her in the early 90s in
a cypher in the Downtown Village in Washington Square Park. Back then
you could find musicians in that area, there was always open mics and
cyphers going on. I kept in touch with people that I vibed with. I had
a little bit of equipment at my house so I would invite people over.
I invited her and from there we just got it poppin! I was on the
SP12 and MPC 300 she would be on the keyboard. [Alicia and I] would
just vibe and make music. Eventually people started hearing it and thinking
that it was pretty hot. We got to the point where she asked me to work
on her album. [At first] I was a little intimidated because my background
was Hip-Hop. [However] I was really feeling her and where she was going
[musically] so I gave it a chance.
AllHipHop.com: What star
qualities did you see in Alicia Keys in the very beginning?
Krucial : I knew she was going to be
a star. She is such a good and radiant person. Alicia, she was just
one of those people you wanted to be around. Then it was her voice,
she reminded me of Anita Baker. I loved her voice and the fact that
I could put [my] beats under it. I really wasn't thinking about
where it could go, we were just making music.
AllHipHop.com: Her albums
are always seem to come from left-field, how do you attest to that?
Krucial : [Alicia Keys] is rebellious,
thats the real essence of Hip-Hop. When I listen to her album I do
not hear R&B, I hear Hip-Hop. People want her to do this, so she
does something else. Conforming is boring, [you should] do what you
feel from the heart. When its real people will recognize it.
AllHipHop.com: Is that
why you think that Songs In A Minor
was so successful?
Krucial : We were just being real. [Songs
In A Minor] was a good statement at where we both were at
the time. Youre listening to the production of me as a baby in R&B
and [Alicia Keys] learning that what she was doing was hot and that
she didnt need such and such to make a song. With the
next album (Diary of Alicia Keys) we learned more and mastered
more. This [new] album is even more bananas! Nobody expected No
One to be something from her!
Her singles are known for being so different? Is that always the
Krucial : No, its something we just do.
We dont sit here and think about it, it just happens.That's the thing
about me and the people around me, we do music from the heart. When
you try to plan it, [the music] sounds contrived. That is not realistic
and people can tell, theyll be like it sounds like he tried.No One was almost written by itself.
AllHipHop.com: Can you
give an example of how one of our favorite Alicia Keys songs was created,
how about You Dont Know My Name.
Oh never mind, Kanye West produced that track, correct?
Krucial : No, Alicia Keys produced the
track with Kanye West. People have to understand that she is a real
producer. He came by with the track and [they built on it]. John Legend
was also on the background vocals, a lot of people do not know that
AllHipHop.com: I will
give you another one, how about "Diary!"
Krucial : "Diary" was one of those joints
where Alicia just started with the piano cords. She just kept playing
the keys for a while and needed that last line. Then I was like, just
think of me as the pages in your diary. She liked it said how [Diary]
reminded her of a Tony! Toni! Tone! track so we reached out to them
to add their flavor. Dwayne Wiggins came through and the song was done
in two takes.
AllHipHop.com: Do you
need anything special when youre in the studio to get you going?
Krucial : [Just] my MPC 4000. I have
every MPC there is. Some people get crazy about guitars I love MPCs.
I just need that and my laptop.
AllHipHop.com: From an
outsider observing a writing session, what do you think they would take
Krucial : Im an easily distracted
person. If youre not relevant to what is going on I would ask you
to leave. I cant do spectators. We like to zone out in the studio.
about outsiders, how about a new songwriter?
Krucial : They would be apart of the
session not just observing. They would be like damn they are so down
to earth. Marsha (from Floetry) loved our vibe. Howard Lily [came through] and said the same thing, were just really easy to work with.
AllHipHop.com: How was
it working with Marsha?
Krucial : It was wonderful. She actually
collaborated on a joint with Alicia and myself on the new album.
I cant wait til she does her solo joint.
you work so closely with Alicia Keys, how do you prevent her material
from sounding like other artists you work with?
Krucial : My job as a producer is to
take [an artists] energy and make the best [music]. When Im with
Alicia her energy is her energy. When Im working with another artist
I am basing my production [around] them. I work [only] with who
Im working with at the moment.
AllHipHop.com: Do you
ever write for rappers?
Krucial : I definitely do beats [for rappers] and would do a hook. To me [writing for rappers] is whats
wrong now. Cats dont be in the studio together, people are just like
send me the tracks son. Working with Nas [help me realize that], hes a true poet.
AllHipHop.com: How was
it working with such a legend like Nas?
Krucial : He was great, he comes through
[the studio], feels the track and writes right there on the spot. Nas
is a true artist in the real form. Forget the fact that he is a rapper.
You can compare his [lyrics] to the best. You have to understand where
he is coming from as far as the talent. You have to respect people who
have the true talent.
AllHipHop.com: When youre
creating a song, do you write the lyrics or make the beat first?
Krucial : All of the above. Sometimes
its just a melody in my head. Sometimes a beat will inspire me. Im
more like a melody and free styling [type of producer] from flows because
of my Hip-Hop roots.
AllHipHop.com: What is
more important, the beat, the melody or the lyrics?
Krucial : Lyrics and melodies. Production
changes, sounds change, each decade [music] changes. There are songs
from the 50's that still relate today because of the great song with
great lyrics and melody.
AllHipHop.com: How do
you feel about the New Jack Swing era?
Krucial : I liked New Jack Swing and
Guy. I respect Teddy Riley as a producer for bringing in a new style
of R&B and getting a name for it. I need to start my own genre.
AllHipHop.com: How about
calling it Krucial Times?
Krucial : (Laughs) We will see
AllHipHop.com: You know
I have to ask, how do you and Alicia balance your business with your
Krucial : (Laughs) We just peoples. We
both have a love for music.
AllHipHop.com: So youre
saying that the rumors arent true?
Krucial : I am saying that the rumors
are the rumors. Its all good, I take it as a grain a salt. I look at
this a job and I love it. All the extra stuff is irrelevant. The only
difference between myself and a person that works an 8 to 5' is that
you see my work. Then there are all these shows that are focused on
celebrities lives. I want to use the media to promote what Im
trying to promote and thats it. If I am going to put myself out there
it will be in a book so that myself and my children can benefit from
it, not the media.
fair enough. To wrap this thing up, whats up with the new Alicia
Keys album? Any special appearances we should look forward to?
Krucial : The album drops November 13th
its called As I Am. Her albums have always been about her
pretty much. She doesnt make that industry album with every producer
artist thats hot at the time. What she does is modern day singer/songwriter