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Alicia Keys kicks off TODAY concert series

Already a megastar R&B singer, Alicia Keys is on her way to becoming a major movie star as well, with a starring role in the yet-to-be-released “The Secret Life of Bees” under her belt and the lead role in Oprah Winfrey’s biopic on legendary singer Lena Horne reportedly in the works.

“I’m very excited about all the possibilities. ‘The Lena Horne Story’ would be a dream part for me to play,” the 27-year-old singer told TODAY's Matt Lauer Monday on Rockefeller Plaza.

In support of her latest album "As I Am," Keys is currently on the 30-city As I Am Tour presented by Lexus, featuring songs from all four of her multiplatinum-selling albums. She kicked off TODAY’s Summer Concert Series in front of an enthusiastic crowd with her first national television performance of the hit single from that album, “Teenage Love Affair.”

She brought along with her a sneak preview of the music video of the song that will premiere on MySpace and BET on Wednesday.“It’s an homage to Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze,’ ” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. The song is about a teenager’s first love — “You know that feeling when you first fall for somebody?” she said. “You can’t get enough of them.”

Keys also performed  "No One" and her classic hit "If I Ain’t Got You" from her sophomore disc, "The Diary of Alicia Keys." "As I Am" has sold more than 3 million copies since its November release, taking her total sales for a career that began in 2001 to more than 25 million worldwide.

The philanthropist, author, songwriter, singer and actress has enjoyed nearly universal acclaim during her career. But an interview in the May issue of “Blender” magazine has embroiled her in controversy.

The magazine reported that Keys said the musical genre gangsta rap “didn’t exist.” According to Blender, she said the music is “a plot to convince black people to kill each other.” She added in reply to a question that it was a government conspiracy.

Keys issued a press release last week in which she said the magazine misrepresented her comments.

“Anyone who knows me and my character knows that I am not a conspiracy theorist or, by implication, a racist,” she said. “My comments about 'gangsta rap' were in no way trying to suggest that the government is responsible for creating this genre of rap music. The point that I was trying to make was that the term was over-sloganized by some of the media causing reactions that were not always positive. Many of the 'gangsta rap' lyrics articulate the problems of the artists' experiences and I think all of us, including our leaders, could be doing more to address these problems including drugs, gang violence, crime, and other related social issues.”

Lauer asked if she would like to elaborate on those comments, but she neatly sidestepped the controversy. “I’ve already addressed this issue, and I would like to really move on to more positive things,” she said. “When things have been misunderstood or misrepresented, I don’t think they deserve as much attention.”

She referred instead to her foundation, Keep a Child Alive, which is dedicated to providing life-saving drugs to children and their families afflicted with HIV and AIDS in Africa and other third-world countries. She also urged the audience to watch her documentary, “Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland,” about her experiences there. The film is available for free viewing and downloads at www.aliciainafrica.com.

She is also a board member of Frum Tha Ground Up, which seeks to inspire American youth and is active in Teens in Motion, an New York organization that encourages kids in the South Bronx to pursue their talents in the performing arts.

Keys’ mother, Terri Augello, is of Irish, Scottish and Italian descent. Her father, Craig Cook, is African American, and, when Cook left the family when Keys was a young girl, she grew up with her mother in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan.

A talented musician who began playing the piano at age 7 and became proficient in classical music, she was valedictorian of her class at the prestigious Professional Performing Arts School, graduating at the age of just 16.

Her first recording as a professional was the 1997 song “Dah Dee Dah (Sexy Thing)” for the soundtrack of “Men in Black.” She recorded her first album, “Songs in A Minor” in 2001. The album became an immediate hit, sold 10 million copies and resulted in the first five of her 11 Grammy Awards.

Keys has recorded three more albums at two-year intervals: “The Diary of Alicia Keys” in 2003, “Unplugged” in 2005 and “As I Am” in 2007.

She began her acting career at the age of 4 in an appearance on “The Cosby Show.” She has appeared in several movies and reportedly has been chosen to play the part of Lena Horne in a biopic being produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Keys remains mum on her personal life, and has refused comment on a report in Star Magazine that she has set a July 4 wedding date with her producer and fellow songwriter Kerry “Krucial” Brothers.

"Alicia in Africa: Journey to the Motherland" is the breathtaking documentary of Grammy Award-winning musician and Keep a Child Alive (KCA) co-founder Alicia Keys’ month-long trip to Africa to visit communities affected by HIV and AIDS.  Alicia’s commitment to the fight against AIDS is contagious and she is leading the effort to spread the message of KCA virally: “Start a Virus to Stop a Virus.”  Spreading the message is so important to Alicia that she is making the documentary available for FREE online. The complete documentary can be viewed on and downloaded from and it can also be viewed on

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