Mark “MK” McLaughlin fancies himself a mogul in the making. The 34-year-old from Islip Terrace not only sings but he writes and produces R&B, hip-hop, soul, pop and Caribbean/tropical style music as well.
“I wanted to stand out, which is why I named myself MK — Made King,” says McLaughlin. “I didn’t wait for a record label to do anything for me. I became proactive by going out and doing things on my own.”
McLaughlin is set to drop his debut EP, “The Mark of MK” on August 28 but his career began when he started DJing at age 15.
“I saw the reaction from the crowd to each cut I played and then I realized I wanted to be the guy on the record instead of the guy spinning it,” he says. “At that point, I started to make some moves.”
BACK IN THE DAY
As a way to break into the business, McLaughlin got a job at New York radio station Hot97 (WQHT 97.1 FM) in 2004 doing everything from working in the mailroom to delivering traffic reports to writing jingles for the morning show with Sway Calloway and DJ Wonder. When the station held its Who’s Next concert series in 2006, McLaughlin got to open for John Legend at S.O.B.’s in SoHo.
“I sang two originals plus an R&B cover of Guy’s ‘Let’s Chill’ and the whole place exploded,” says McLaughlin. “The crowd was singing along with me. I was blown away.”
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Once Hot97’s DJ Envy spun his solo song, “Girl I Gotta Go” on the air, McLaughlin left the station in 2007 to pursue his own music career. This led to him to getting his song, “Turn the Lights Out” in the 2009 film, “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish.”
“That really motivated me to move forward and people started to work with me,” says McLaughlin. “It set the tone because I had a credit that was real.”
McLaughlin began working with a variety of people in the industry. His collaborations include cowriting and recording “Only Other One” with Jadakiss, “White & Brown” with Papoose, “Let More Ladies In” with Jim Jones, “Deyah” with Shaggy plus singing and writing the hook on Lil’ Mama’s 2011 single, “NY, NY, LA, LA” featuring Snoop Dogg.
“I’m a songwriter first,” says McLaughlin. “I love to be diverse with creating songs therefore I try to work with artists in different genres.”
But McLaughlin has been building his own solo career all along the way. Growing up on a steady diet of Stevie Wonder, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and Jay-Z, he was driven to develop his own identity.
“I wanted to have a different sound quality,” says McLaughlin. “I stopped listening to my influences in order to learn about the texture of my own voice. My focus was to create my own style and sound.”
His calming, deep tone comes from his mellow personality, which stands out on his new single, “Don’t Feel Lost,” which brings about mental health awareness.
“During the quarantine, I saw domestic violence and suicide spiking. I felt the need to write something to comfort people,” says McLaughlin. “Sometimes people are afraid to admit that they have mental health issues. Many are terrified to talk to others for fear that it makes them seem crazy or weak. I want people to understand that it’s OK to admit to having a mental health issue.”
The video for the song, which has a special guest appearance by Sean Paul, features front line workers and people quarantining at home as well as shots of McLaughlin in Central Islip.
“I was so honored how much people engaged with the song,” he says. “It was a warm feeling to see how people were dealing with the pandemic.”
There’s even a charitable element to the song. When people hear “Don’t Feel Lost” on Party 105.6 FM, they can call in to win a free meal at TGI Fridays in Central Islip.
“I wanted to help people who are dealing with hardships,” says McLaughlin. “The goal is to get this campaign to go national.”
In another solo song, “Can’t Wrong My Rights,” McLaughlin gets a bit political.
“It was my way of protesting through song,” he says. “It’s a track for anybody who feels like their rights have been wronged from all walks of life.”
His dance song, “Model for Me” even addresses the sensitive issue of weight.
“Being a plus-size man, I wanted to create a song that was body positive for females,” says McLaughlin. “In the song I sing, ‘You don’t need no designer, cause all ya curves they line up … Your body looks so couture, it’s what I’ve been looking for.’ ”
STAGE & SOCIAL MEDIA
McLaughlin has performed locally with DJ Theo Pisani at the Patio on the Nautical Mile in Freeport and Flynn’s in Fire Island and has even toured nationally with Flo Rida from 2016-2019.
“Flo’s whole team just embraced me,” says McLaughlin. “He’s such an explosive pop icon. Doing shows with him taught me how to get more aggressive with my vocals.”
Every Sunday at 6 p.m. McLaughlin hosts a show on Instagram called “Singing the Newz” where he interviews representatives from the music industry as well as upcoming talent.
“The show has helped me stay in touch with fans, premiere new music and I’m able to give people some laughter plus good vibes during these hard times,” he says. “It actually created a closer bond with me and my audience and even helped draw some new fans as well.”
Whether it’s writing, performing, hosting or producing, McLaughlin approaches whatever he does as a humanitarian.
“Overall, I’m a people person who is all about positive energy,” he says. “I like music that’s for the betterment of society.”
FALL SINGLE COMING
In addition to his new EP, Mark “MK” McLaughlin will be releasing a bonus single, “World for Tomorrow” around the 2020 election.
“This song features environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki from Canada,” says McLaughlin. “I reached out to her and asked for permission to include her actual speech in the song. She loved the idea and agreed.”
The track has an alternative pop vibe and sends out a strong message.
“It’s a song for world improvement focusing on global warming,” says McLaughlin. “Right now the world needs a sense of healing because we are living in scary times.” — DAVID J. CRIBLEZ