Keys' father is African-American and her mother is of Sicilian (Agrigento and Sciacca) and either Scottish or Irish descent.
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), a paralegal and part-time actress, and one of three children of Craig Cook, a flight attendant. 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. 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.