Much of contemporary R&B is so high-tech, so programmed and so heavily electronic that a lot of younger R&B artists don’t think in terms of chops or learning to play an instrument. But Nik West is one 21st Century R&B artist who isn’t lacking in the chops department. She is a young electric bassist who clearly knows her way around her instrument and plays like she has been inspired by the funky likes of Graham, Louis Johnson (of Brothers Johnson fame) and Marcus Miller. She has accompanied a few well-known artists, but on Just in the Nik of Time, West is the one in the driver’s seat.
Although West plays her electric bass on this album, which she co-produced with Justin James, she isn’t strictly a bassist. She is also a highly expressive singer. West’s vocals, in fact, are the primary ingredient on Just in the Nik of Time, which favors a jazz-tinged neo-soul approach along the lines of Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and India.Arie. This is not a jazz album per se. Stylistically, there is a major difference between what West does on Just in the Nik of Time and what a hardcore jazz vocalist like Kitty Margolis does on her albums. But West, like Badu and Scott, clearly operates on the jazzier side of neo-soul, and she is as jazzy on “Eyes Closed,” “Wait a Minute,” and “Written All Over Me” as she is on “Who’s in the Mirror” and the uplifting opener “Be Okay.” West’s orientation on this album is modern R&B with jazz overtones, and like other neo-soulsters, West favors a more organic approach to modern R&B.
Further, she is going for honest, soulful expression rather than style over substance or attitude for the sake of attitude. West has a lot of substance, and she occasionally touches on social issues. West delivers a feminist message on “Black Beauty” and the Latin-tinged “Do What You Gotta Do,” encouraging young women to be good to themselves and not fall prey to the dangers of the streets. Much to her credit, she gets her message of female empowerment across without becoming preachy or getting into male-bashing.
Alex Henderson (ReviewYou and Billboard)