On the Run is a mediocre disappointment

Atlanta-based DJ Niko the Kid recently released his EP On the Run. In the past, he has commissioned beats for Akon and Gucci Mane, as well as remixed tracks for CeeLo Green, Tinashe and Parson James. On the Run represents his debut on the label Dim Mak, as he blends elements of electro, speed garage and futuristic R&B. While it may seem ambitious on paper, the EP fails to take any risks or break new ground. While On the Run has its redeeming qualities, it is mainly mediocre and fails to contribute anything of value to the music scene.

“Love Me Not” is the most grating of the three tracks. The featured vocalist Shaylen, who appears on all three songs in the EP, sounds as if she wonders if the listener loves her or not. Her spoken delivery is flat, amounting to little more than background noise. There is no substance to the few lyrics the song includes and they are painfully recycled. Shaylen is desensitized, seemingly less sincere about getting an answer to her question and more about droning it into the listener’s skull.

An EDM track can survive vocal and lyrical flaws if the production holds up. Unfortunately, Niko also comes off as bored and lazy in “Love Me Not,”  using the same synthetic drum pattern the whole song. The drop can be anticipated from a mile away and ultimately arrives without any build-up or change in intensity. Instead, the synths lull in the background and almost no new elements are introduced. Still, despite being mindless and dull, it’s not entirely headache-inducing and could work well in the background when the listener’s focus is diverted elsewhere.

Fortunately for Niko, the title track “On the Run” outshines the other two. Shaylen wakes up from the curse she was under on the previous track and reveals decent vocal chops, this time sounding actually interested in what she is singing. She engages listeners by trying for higher notes in the chorus, then comes in with pitched vocals during the drop to add to the intensity. The lyrics are far from profound, but they are catchy and do a better job of engaging the listener.

The song itself starts out with synths that create a tropical vibe. As it builds, Niko adds in more synthetic sounds and a drum pattern that give the track an increasingly new-age feel. When Shaylen moves to the chorus, the track pulls back slightly before rushing in again, upping the stakes and creating urgency. There is an element of danger to the drop, actually trying to be interesting by throwing in different synth patterns every couple of bars. Overall, the track is danceable and fun, with enough edge to make it engaging, too.

“These Feels” falls somewhere in between “Love Me Not” and “On the Run” in terms of quality. Shaylen pulls off another serviceable vocal performance, but with less inflection it comes across as repetitive. She brings in a sultry delivery for the verses that doesn’t translate into the chorus, making the song feel fragmented. Lyrics are subpar and cliche again, only this time coming off more forced than boring. With lines about partying to forget “the feels,” the sentiments of vulnerability and optimism that Niko attempts to evoke simultaneously end up falling flat.

Niko’s production in this song has more bounce than the previous two, with warmer synthetic beats and faster pacing. Yet the drop feels like a more danceable version of “Love Me Not,” failing to come across as dynamic or interesting. The verses try to make up for this by waiting to throw in the drum pattern and using keys in the background, but it isn’t enough to save the track from being average.

In the end, the main thing that kills Niko the Kid’s EP is not that is particularly egregious but that it simply fails to experiment enough to maintain the listener’s attention. While “On the Run” is the standout, even it feels like any other DJ on the planet could have spliced it together on Garage Band.

Ultimately, Niko the Kid has potential and so does his EP. Unfortunately, it suffers from trying to play it too safe. If listeners already enjoy EDM, this project is worth their attention. As for everyone else, while the project is decent, it’s not interesting enough to prompt further attention.