Among the list of things Alicia Keys is exceptionally good at: making a mint tea latte. It’s nearly 11 a.m. on a Monday morning and she’s busy preparing two dairy-free cups in her spacious kitchen. The singer is in full mom-mode: Pancakes and eggs are also being whipped up and kisses are planted on the forehead of her youngest son, Genesis, 6, who sits at the counter next to his grandma, Keys’ mother, Terria. The kids—Keys’ son Egypt is occupying himself elsewhere in the house—don’t have school due to a teacher development day, so everyone is easing into the morning. After taking a sip of the latte Keys made, it’s clear it punctuates the mood: Everything here feels sweet and mellow.

Keys had hoped to sit outside on the terrace of the California mansion where she and husband Swizz Beatz (real name Kasseem Dean) are raising their children; the cliffside architectural masterpiece features uninhibited views of the Pacific ocean. But it’s late October and a bit too chilly and windy for that. So, with mugs of tea in hand—Keys’ is white with a big black “A” on it—we walk down the curved staircase to the 4th floor. Along the way we pass the spacious, yet cozy home cinema where Egypt just hosted a crew of friends for a sleepover in celebration of his 11th birthday. Blankets and pillows are still strewn about. Evidence of a good time. Keys shakes her head as she recalls her surprise at the number of pals on her son’s guest list. “I was like, really, seven?!” she says with a laugh. But the kids had a blast, so giving the pre-teen turnup the green light was worth it.

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