Kerry “Krucial” Brothers: A Successful Blend…From Alicia Keys to Nas

What 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.  Aside […]


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

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.  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 couldn’t 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.”  Throughout

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. I’m 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.  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 I’m 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.  Since

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 doesn’t water

it down, [Hip-Hop] lets me expand more.  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 don’t see myself that way, it’s 

just music. I’m definitely Hip-Hop all the way. To me Hip-Hop is a

blend of all different music genres that  aren’t supposed

to be brought together and that’s the kind of music that I like to

create.  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

forever.  What personal

characteristic of yourself do you feel has allowed you be so successful?

Krucial : I’m 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 can’t be the best at anything

unless you put time into it everyday.  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.  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.  Her albums

are always seem to come from left-field, how do you attest to that?

Krucial : [Alicia Keys] is rebellious,

that’s 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 it’s real people will recognize it.  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. You’re 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 didn’t 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!  Exactly!

Her singles are known for being so different?  Is that always the


Krucial : No, its something we just do.

We don’t 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, they’ll be like “it sounds like he tried.”No Onewas almost written by itself.  Can you

give an example of how one of our favorite Alicia Keys’ songs was created,

how about You Don’t 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

either  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.  Do you

need anything special when you’re 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 MPC’s.

I just need that and my laptop.  From an

outsider observing a writing session, what do you think they would take

from it?

Krucial : I’m an easily distracted

person. If you’re not relevant to what is going on I would ask you

to leave. I can’t do spectators. We like to zone out in the studio.  Forget

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, we’re just really easy to work with.  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 can’t wait ‘til she does her solo joint.  Since

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 I’m with

Alicia her energy is her energy. When I’m working with another artist

I am basing my production [around] them.  I work [only] with who

I’m working with at the moment.  Do you

ever write for rappers?

Krucial : I definitely do beats [for

rappers] and would do a hook. To me [writing for rappers] is what’s

wrong now. Cats don’t be in the studio together, people are just like

“send me the tracks son.”  Working with Nas [help me realize

that], he’s a true poet.  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.  When you’re

creating a song, do you write the lyrics or make the beat first?

Krucial : All of the above. Sometimes

it’s just a melody in my head. Sometimes a beat will inspire me. I’m

more like a melody and free styling [type of producer] from flows because

of my Hip-Hop roots.  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.  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.  How about

calling it “Krucial Times?”

Krucial : (Laughs) We will see  You know

I have to ask, how do you and Alicia balance your business with your

romantic relationship?

Krucial : (Laughs) We just peoples. We

both have a love for music.  So you’re

saying that the rumors aren’t 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 I’m

trying to promote and that’s 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.  Sounds

fair enough. To wrap this thing up, what’s up with the new Alicia

Keys album? Any special appearances we should look forward to?

Krucial : The album drops November 13th

it’s called As I Am. Her albums have always been about her

pretty much. She doesn’t make that industry album with every producer

artist that’s hot at the time. What she does is modern day singer/songwriter