"We met on the east side in New York, and we were around the same group of friends," Kravitz tells PEOPLE at the Recording Academy Honors
Both stars received awards at the Recording Academy Honors, presented by the Black Music Collective, in Los Angeles on Thursday and Kravitz opened up to PEOPLE on the red carpet about the origins of their bond.
"We met on the east side in New York, and we were around the same group of friends," the 59-year-old "American Woman" singer tells PEOPLE of Carey, 54, whom he starred alongside in Lee Daniels' 2009 film Precious.
"She was working on her demos. I was working on mine. She worked at a sports bar I used to hang out at," recalled Kravitz. "So, it's extra special to be sharing this night with Mariah."
Kravitz also recalled being joined by some feline friends when the pair would hang out at Carey's apartment.
"We used to go over to their house and hang out. She had a bunch of cats," he told Entertainment Tonight, without clarifying whether the pets were Carey's or her roommate's.
"And I remember her playing her cassettes and me playing mine and here we are tonight on the same night, which is cool," Kravitz said.
He and Carey both received the Recording Academy Global Impact Award, a CEO Merit Award, during the ceremony, held at Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
This week, Kravitz also appears on the cover of PEOPLE — and he spoke about the experience on the event's red carpet. "It's surreal to be on the cover of PEOPLE and to be at the checkout stand," he said, before recalling the photoshoot. "It was a fun day. [I] had a great time shooting up in the hills in Malibu."
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In the cover story, the Grammy winner reflected on his early days as an aspiring rock star shopping his music to record labels in the '80s and getting told he didn't fit the bill as a Black artist.
"I was told my music wasn’t Black enough or wasn't white enough," he said, noting that regarding his eclectic musical interests, record labels "said I had to make a choice, but I never did."
Kravitz added, "I was told that I need to make the music that Black people commercially are making that's on the radio, so you'll have success. And I just could never get with any of that. I was going to make the music that I made."
These days, the musician — whose new album Blue Electric Light drops March 22 — has proven himself and looks to both his past and present for inspiration.
"It's sort of amazing to me that I could be where I am now and feel fresh and hungry," said Kravitz, before revealing the best part about being a bona fide rock star: "This is who God created me to be. I'm just trying to walk in that destiny."
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