MK talks about his No. 1 hit '17' and why popular EDM can sound 'cheesy'

Even if you don’t realize it, you probably know at least one song touched by producer/DJ Marc Kinchen, commonly known by his stage name of MK.

The 45-year-old Detroit native has been producing tracks for over 25 years across the realms of electronic, pop, R&B and hip-hop music. He's had Billboard No. 1 tracks in 1993 ("Always" featuring Alana, US Dance Chart) and in 2018 ("17" featuring Carla Monroe, UK Dance Chart), with several more sprinkled in between.

He's worked as the in-house producer for Pitbull and Will Smith, penning tracks for their endeavors in music, movies ("Bad Boys II"; "I, Robot"; and "Shark Tale") and television ("All of Us").

But despite all that, he’s not yet a household name in the United States. That could change with the release of his debut solo album later this year, which is hotly anticipated in the dance music community following the impressive success of "17."

The youthful, energetic track has racked up more than 42 million plays on Spotify and has received airplay on U.S. pop radio -- a relatively rare feat for underground house producers like Kinchen who mostly get played in clubs and other urban late-night venues.

"I've never really had a big record on the American side," Kinchen told AOL ahead of his performance at CRSSD Festival in San Diego on March 3. "It opens up a whole new can of worms for me."

CRSSD Festival in San Diego
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CRSSD Festival in San Diego

Upon listening to "17," it's easy to understand why it's pushing to be MK's biggest crossover success. Monroe pines over a lost romantic cause while nostalgically recalling their teenage years over some of Kinchen’s trademark piano chords and a thumping bass line that lends the track credence on dance floors and pop radio alike.

"It's something everyone can relate to. Everyone had a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend or something when they were 17," Kinchen said. "The first time I played it was at a festival in England, and the crowd erupted when it dropped. When you have that happen as a DJ, especially when no one has heard the track before, that’s the best sign you can get."

As someone who has decades of experience working with the likes of Quincy Jones, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg and Jay Z, Kinchen possesses the ability to artfully combine elements from different genres into an electronic track and make it both accessible to the average listener and pleasing to more critical ears.

That might make him the man who can help remove the tacky stigma attached to much of the electronic/dance music that's filtered into the mainstream during the modern EDM boom.

"I see how producers chase the business," Kinchen said. "I know R&B producers who've been producing R&B their whole life, and now six months later they're producing house music. It’s kind of funny, because they don't have that background. So you hear a lot of cheesy pop house/EDM songs."

In addition to his forthcoming album, Kinchen will also release remixes for Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Armin Van Buuren this year. Aside from that, however, he's concentrating on making original tracks to see if he can improve what he's planned for his LP so far -- which he says he could finish in two weeks if push came to shove.

But he won't force that issue. He'd rather try to get another single on the map to further grow his fan base during a time when standalone tracks are easily streamed online.

"Most people will just buy songs you like, unless they’re really into that artist," Kinchen said. "Like Nicki Minaj; you might just be a fan of Nicki as an artist and buy her album. I think with me right now, people still think of singles as the thing to get. Until I get that following where people want anything by MK, there's kind of no rush on the album."

If Kinchen keeps putting out tracks like "17," he might soon have fans banging down his door to get his debut record. Until then, they can immerse themselves in a wide-ranging catalogue that's been building for more than 20 years.

MK is kicking off his Family Affair Tour with his March 3 performance at CRSSD Festival in San Diego, California.

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