Kevin Federline first publicly dropped rhymes as the final act of the 2006 Teen Choice Awards (y’know, where all the hot new rappers break through), spitting “Lose Control,” which replaced the widely ridiculed “PopoZao” as the lead single for Federline’s equally derided and anticipated full-length debut, Playing with Fire. Federline’s producers—none of whom have any marquee value—are some of the least inventive currently working in popular music, which is a pretty hefty drawback, rendering the sonic backdrop an unremarkable sludge of half-hearted beats, annoying musical tics, and enough bass to make your speakers beg for mercy.
Opening with a litany of vicious headlines and bizarre sound effects, Playing with Fire settles into its mediocre groove early with “The World Is Mine,” the laughable “America’s Most Hated,” and the equally goofy “Snap,” proving that despite his competent flow (uh, that’s the only real plus, annoying vocal affectations aside), Federline can only rap about weed, his bank account, his wife, fighting anyone who looks at him sideways, and partying ’til three days from now—roughly in that order. Speaking of his wife, Spears shows up to slur the hook to the tired “Crazy,” which is basically an us-against-the-world diss showing all those mean paparazzi who’s really calling the shots.
An oh-so-tiny sliver of myself kind of wanted Playing with Fire to be less aggressively shitty than it is, if only so the restless, rapacious media would ease off this tattered target of its ire—unfortunately, this disc is just as disposable and dumb as you’d expect. The (half)wittiest line on here, “I’m comin’ out like Janet’s titty at the Super Bowl,” doesn’t even show up until the title track, some nine songs in. You’ll have checked out long, long before then but somehow, perversely, I don’t think Federline is going to care much anyway.