Alicia Keys was "supposed" to be a "prostitute or addicted to drugs".
The 39-year-old star believes having a "dream" is a luxury and she will never forget being at her lowest point and defying expectations to be so successful.
Discussing her new single 'Underdog', which is about dreaming of a better life, she admitted: "I am that person. The one that wasn't supposed to make it out of Hell's Kitchen, who was supposed to end up being a prostitute, a young mother at 16 years old, or addicted to drugs.
"I am the one who was supposed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got injured or killed.
"And what the f*** is a dream? A dream is a luxury, if you have to pay all these bills and put food on the table for your kids.
"That is why I understand so much about what it means to have the strength to follow your own path. All the songs I've ever written that have been considered empowering or uplifting, I've written them at my lowest point. Because I needed to remind myself: don't forget that."
Alicia - who has sons Egypt, nine, and Genesis, five, with husband Swizz Beatz - admitted one of the reasons she's always been a "tomboy" was to keep herself safe growing up in such a "dark" area of New York.
She told The Guardian newspaper: "The New York that I came from was very dark, very desolate.
"[It] had what looked like movie theatres, but it was all porno places, with hookers on every corner.
"I had to always wear something very baggy, very dark, always had my hair back; I felt like if people saw me, they might try to touch me.
"That's why I've always been such a tomboy - I've never been the one in pretty dresses and nails, because I could not have nails and hair. And for a lot of girls it still is a safety risk to walk the streets."
The 'Empire State of Mind' singer admitted she's previously been "addicted" to making other people happy.
She said: "I've definitely been addicted to pleasing people. It's very damaging.
"It has to do with a certain feeling that you don't deserve certain things that other people do.
"It's a habit. I actually have to be like: stop, you're doing that thing where you're not valuing yourself."
tagged in Alicia keys