“He’s definitely like a confidant to me, and I am to him,” says Keys, 39, opening up in this week’s issue, which includes an exclusive excerpt from her new autobiographical book More Myself. In it she shares never-before-told details of her and Beatz’ rollercoaster ride to romance.
The New York City natives first met when Keys, born Alicia Augello-Cook, was 14 and Beatz, born Kasseem Dean, was 16, brought together by a mutual high school friend. But Keys wasn’t interested then and she remained that way for years to come.
Angela Pham/BFA/REX/Shutterstock Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys
“We ended up in the same circles at various awards shows and industry events,” she writes. “He’d usually pull up in some fancy car, rolling deep with his Bronx crew and shining with diamonds. I wanted nothing to do with that scene or with Swizz.”
But that started to change when the two were first brought together for a music project years later. “The more we talked the more I noticed how his mind worked. Beyond the baggy jeans and arm tats there was depth. He was so aware of what was happening around the world.”
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Still, Beatz almost lost his shot with Keys during their first date. But he masterfully made up for it.
“I finally agreed to have lunch. I made a reservation for noon at an outdoor restaurant in downtown Manhattan. I arrived at twelve on the dot. Swizz was nowhere in sight. He finally came strutting in at 12:20. As much as I wanted to stay mad at Swizz he lifted the mood with a steady stream of humor and fascinating conversation.”
She continues, “Later as we approached my car I noticed something enormous attached to its top. He smiled. “That’s why I was late,” he said. It was a painting of a grand piano with paintbrushes attached to the keys. “When I saw this,” he explained, “it seemed like the perfect representation of our friendship. You’re the keys, I’m the brushes.”
The pair went on to form their friendship into a relationship and Beatz, 41, proposed before whisking Keys off to Hawaii in 2010, where he kept the artfully romantic gestures coming.
DIGGZY/SplashNews.com Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz
“‘Open it,’ Swizz said as he slid the box toward me. I lifted the cardboard flaps and looked inside to see several large canisters. ‘I’ve always wanted you to be my canvas,’ he whispered. The canisters were full of body paint, in every vibrant color imaginable,” she writes.
It was the beginning of something magical. “Later, stroke by stroke in the shadows of dusk, he turned me into his masterpiece, covering me in swirls of yellows, reds and purples. Never have I experienced anything more sensual. Which is why, when I missed my period a few weeks later, I wasn’t exactly surprised. As that winter gave way to spring, we relished two pleasures: the engagement and the pregnancy.”
Stephanie Pistel Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz on their wedding day
The couple, married in Corsica in 2010, the same year they welcomed son Egypt. Keys credits no holds barred honesty and strict rules about quality time with keeping their love strong.
“Swizz and I are striving to keep our promise never to go more than two weeks without seeing each other,” she writes in the book. “Swizz has even flown from New York City to Sydney to be with me, in order to keep that promise intact. We also set aside one weekend a month to go away together, just the two of us.”
And the best part, says Keys, they’re on the same page—at least most of the time. “We don’t fight because we talk so much,” she tells PEOPLE. “But he’s also so opinionated. Sometimes I’m like ‘I know that’s what you think, and I’m glad you know what you think, but you have to be conscious about how sometimes your opinion can be a little overbearing.”
Thankfully, says Keys, “We can both be genuinely honest. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a relationship that has been so genuine.”
Excerpted from More Myself, copyright © 2020 by Alicia Keys, with permission from Flatiron Books. More Myself the book and audiobook are available March 31. Keys’s upcoming seventh studio album ALICIA is currently being promoted on Apple Music.