Keys was unhappy with the label because her career had stalled during her two years under contract at Columbia due to executive indecision over her direction and major changes within the company.

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Keys' debut album, Songs in A Minor was released in 2001, producing her first Billboard Hot 100 number-one single "Fallin'", and selling over 12 million copies worldwide. Her sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was released in 2003, spawning successful singles "You Don't Know My Name", "If I Ain't Got You" and "Diary", and selling eight million copies worldwide.

Later that year, she released her first live album, Unplugged, becoming the first woman to have an MTV Unplugged album debut at number one.

The album's lead single, "You Don't Know My Name", peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for eight consecutive weeks, her first Top 10 single in both charts since 2002's "A Woman's Worth".

The album's second single, "If I Ain't Got You", was released in February 2004 and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for six weeks.

Her second live album, VH1 Storytellers was released in 2013.

Here was released in 2016, becoming her seventh R&B/Hip-Hop chart topping album.At first, Keys attempted to manage both, but after a month, she dropped out of college to pursue her musical career full-time.Keys signed a demo deal with Jermaine Dupri and So So Def Recordings, where she appeared on the label's Christmas album performing "The Little Drummer Girl".Keys then had a NAACP Image Award nominated appearance in The Secret Life of Bees in 2008.Keys also made an appearance on season 2 of Empire in 2015. Keys has won 15 Grammy Awards, 17 NAACP Image Awards, and numerous other awards, and has sold over 35 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide.As I Am was released in 2007, producing the Hot 100 number-one single "No One", selling five million copies worldwide and earning an additional three Grammy Awards.