Today in 2001, Alicia Keys released her debut album, Songs in A Minor. Before we go any further, we must acknowledge the superb double entendre in the title. It references a piano key, but also, Alicia was only 14 years old — a minor — when she started writing songs that would eventually become tracks on this album.

The industry hadn’t seen a mainstream R&B instrumentalist for decades, and in 2001, we were living in a J.Lo world, which is to say that R&B had moved away from the big vocalists that reigned in the ’90s. While Alicia isn’t necessarily a big vocalist, she was decidedly different in an era dominated by sexpots.

Alicia’s splashy debut — though impressive — had the benefit of Clive Davis leaning into her promotional campaign. The industry titan personally wrote Oprah Winfrey a letter to have Alicia appear on her show. He also reportedly made phone calls to other major shows and media outlets to secure appearances for his new artist ahead of her album release. With that kind of weight behind you, you simply can’t lose. And if you ever doubted the impact of his concerted effort, I’d like to point out that “Fallin’” — the album’s official first single — didn’t even crack the Billboard Hot 100 until June 16, 2001, almost two weeks after its parent album dropped and more than two months after  it was released.

While one could argue that Alicia got a bit of an unfair advantage, no one can deny that she made a solid album. Songs in A Minor was a traditional R&B affair with just enough hip-hop sensibilities to make it contemporary. The album definitely skews toward piano-driven ballads, but every now and then, Alicia gave us something to bounce to like “Jane Doe” (co-written, co-produced and featuring an uncredited Kandi Burris).

In many ways, Alicia Keys plays very directly to the preferences of the critics. She has the quintessential singer-songwriter aesthetic — you know, because you have to perform with an instrument to write songs (sorry, Mariah). And with her relatively “modest” presentation in the midst of Britney- and J.Lo-mania, the Recording Academy couldn’t wait to give her all of the awards. She would go on to win five Grammys — including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “Fallin’” — at the 2002 Grammy Awards, tying the record at the time (set by Lauryn Hill three years prior).

With over 12 million copies sold worldwide, Songs in A Minor was also a commercial success. And while it’s tempting to point out all of the establishment support it got, the fact of the matter is that it is an excellent album from a talented artist who has gone on to recreate that same magic many times over.

Favorite track: “Mr. Man” (with Jimmy Cozier)

For as long as this website has existed, I have always wanted to have this song as a TBT selecton, and with today being Deniece Williams’ 71st birthday, there is no better time.

“Silly” was released as the second single from Williams’ fifth album, My Melody. Written by Fritz Baskett, Clarence McDonald and Williams herself, the song is sung from the perspective of a forlorn woman who can’t seem to get her man — or rather, the man she wants — to reciprocate interest. And because silly is the name of the game, said woman is lying to her friends about happy she is in her make-believe relationship.

From the lyrics to the vocal delivery, “Silly” captures the sadness of unrequited love in a special way. The song would only make it to No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100, but any true R&B knows it is an absolute classic. It has been covered by Patti LaBelle (among others) and was even sampled by Monica on her 2010 hit, “Everything to Me.”

If you haven’t heard this song before, thank me later.

Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, is requesting that his client, a convicted murderer, receives a sentence of probation because he’s the “product of a broken system” who could still be an “asset to the community.”

It must be crack.

The prosecutors, on the other hand, are seeking a 30-year sentence. Chauvin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd on April 21 and is scheduled for sentencing on June 25.

Sean Love Combs — a.k.a. Diddy — has partnered with Salesforce to launch a digital marketplace where consumers can find products created and sold by Black-owned businesses.

The marketplace — called Shop Circulate — came to be via acquisition of the Nile List.

Fun fact about the Nile List? It was founded by Khadijah Robinson, who has co-hosted two episodes of No Hipsters Pod — including the very first episode.

Khadijah will be joining Shop Circulate as the head of product, where she will lead development and drive global efforts.

Shop Circulate goes live later this year.

Rapper Wisdom — a member of DaBaby’s entourage — has been arrested for attempted murder with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a firearm.

The arrest comes hours after DaBaby had been question about a shooting that took place last night in Miami.

According to TMZ, a group of men that included DaBaby and Wisdom got into an argument with another group of men outside a restaurant. At some point, the other group tried to run away, which is when Wisdom allegedly shot one of them in the leg.

Another person in the DaBaby-affiliated group, Christopher Urena, has also been charged with attempted murder for shooting one of the men in the other group in the back, leaving him paralyzed.

Rapper Lil Loaded — best known for his 2019 viral hit, “6locc 6a6y” — passed away yesterday.

The cause of death hasn’t been confirmed by authorities, but the rapper had posted an IG story that many have deemed a suicide note. The rapper’s attorney, Ashkan Mehryari, also believes this to be the case.

Lil Loaded — real name Dashawn Robertson — was due in court this week over the shooting death of his friend, Khalil Walker, for which he had been charged with manslaughter.

Lil Loaded was 20 years old.

Remember back in March 2019 when Russell Westbrook threatened to put hands on a heckler and his wife at a Utah Jazz game? Following the incident, the heckler, Shane Keisel, got banned from Jazz games for life, fired from his job, and kicked out of a pilot training program in which he was enrolled.

Keisel — an army veteran — and his wife, Jennifer Huff, sued Westbrook in December 2019 for defamation, claiming that he painted Keisel as racist and homophobic. They were seeking $100 million in damages.

Unfortunately for them, the lawsuit was thrown out by a judge yesterday, who explained that Westbrook’s remarks were opinion and not defamation, and that his threats were not extreme enough to recover damages.

Ursh must be feeling the pressure from Nick Cannon.

Just eight months after they had their daughter, Sovereign Bo, Usher and his girlfriend, Jenn Goicoechea, just revealed that they’re expecting their second child together. Goicoechea debuted her baby bump at the iHeart Awards earlier tonight, which were hosted by Usher.

This will be Usher’s fourth child. He had two sons — 13-year-old Usher V and 12-year-old Naviyd Ely — with ex-wife Tameka Foster.