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In lieu of a snarky caption, we’d like to direct you Kevinfederline.com, where you can stream tracks off his (unintentionally) hilarious debut album, Playing With Fire.

As soon as Britney Spears dumped the 150 pounds of career baggage known as Kevin Federline, gossip columnists feverishly began to suggest reasons that the much-derided union came to an end. Among the most popular: Britney caught Kevin with another woman, Britney grew weary of his freeloading ways, and Britney realized that at 24 she was only a step away from public-access duets with LaToya Jackson and decided to check herself before she wrecked herself.

I have my own theory. I’d like to believe that the matrimony-killing moment occurred when K-Fed returned home from a long day at the recording studio and proudly played the missus the title track of his album, Playing With Fire. When Britney heard the man she twice allowed to impregnate her rap the line, “I’m coming out/like Janet’s titty at the Super Bowl,” she knew she’d made a really big mistake — like, even bigger than dancing with a python around her neck at the MTV Video Awards or shooting the finger at Mexican paparazzi or frenching Fred Durst or smacking gum throughout her interview with Matt Lauer or showing up drunk at a Vegas wedding chapel with her high-school sweetheart or drinking eight Red Bulls and posing bottomless for the cover of Esquire or driving through LA traffic with baby Sean Preston on her lap or ... you get the idea.  

Had Federline never hooked up with Spears, it’s likely he would have spent the rest of his days anonymously doing puppet-dance moves behind major pop stars and tearing up the finer topless establishments of this great nation. But Britney was his “Get Out of Jail” card, his opportunity to become a legitimate star, rather than simply the stubble-faced, fedora-wearing guy who spends his life in close proximity to stars.

Aside from his wanna-be-black fashion sense, K-Fed’s prime appeal to Spears surely rested with his relentless, and, at times, unfathomable self-confidence. That cockiness not only convinced Federline he could carve out a legit career as a hip-hop emcee, but also colors every word he utters on Playing With Fire.     

It’s hard to think of any celebrity since Brigitte Nielsen more oblivious to the way they’re perceived by the public. Sure, Federline understands that he’s been slagged in the press, and he drops some 10-megaton f-bombs on those voyeuristic stenographers, just to let them know who’s in the higher tax bracket. But he probably hasn’t read any of the actual slaggings, or heard any of the derisive jokes from pathetic tabloid-TV hosts.

Federline views himself, in the words of his new album’s most defensive song, as “America’s Most Hated”: the envy of people who wish they could be like him and bathe in Cristal, cruise Malibu in a Ferrari, and get intimate with one of the biggest pop stars in the world. “I know you’re mad that I made it,” Federline declares in the song, although it’s unclear just who is so mad or by what yardstick of career achievement he reckons he’s “made it.” As a rapper/dancer, he makes a pretty fair gold digger, but even in that milieu, he can’t match the sophistication or character-assassinating ambition of a Heather Mills.

No, Federline is not America’s most hated. He’s America’s most ridiculed, and that’s a crucial distinction. Even before Spears gave him a dishonorable discharge, the public was too busy laughing at Federline to bother hating or envying him.

Playing With Fire is drab and mediocre, an oddly joyless ride, given that Federline devotes much of the album to describing how wondrous his life is/was. While his lyrical flow is no worse than that of the average open-mic-night competitor, his forced way with a rhyme can produce some inadvertent comedy: “I come tight with every rhyme/I built a kingdom down the street from Pepperdine.” I think we all know what a stellar water polo squad Pepperdine produces every year, and it doesn’t get any more gangsta than that.

Judging by his lyrics, Federline’s two great loves are unlimited charge cards and a steady supply of reefer. But you still sense he’s reaching for a rhyme when he raps: “This marijuana got me heavily sedated/I’m Kevin Federline, America’s most hated.”

Those looking for hints of marital discord will find them with “Caught Up,” in which Federline assures us that he’s not a spouse abuser, but adds that his wife sometimes pushes him to the brink of violence. “Now I’m feeling like George Bush and Osama,” he tells us. I can’t tell if K-Fed has a split personality, or he’s just caught up in the bipartisan spirit of the moment.

Where does Federline go from here? As a wise man once said, “When you ain’t got nothing/you’ve got nothing to lose,” and, in terms of career options and grassroots credibility, K-Fed ain’t got nothing. With his album already certified double-plutonium, and promoters literally begging to give away his concert tickets, Federline is busily rehearsing for his court fight with Spears.

He’s requested full custody of their two sons, a move that would look like something more than financial blackmail had he made any effort to gain custody of the two children he previously fathered with actress Shar Jackson (he didn’t). He’s also hinted that he might try to market an alleged Spears-Federline honeymoon sex tape.

I’d suggest a high-concept reality show featuring Jennifer Lopez’s ex-husbands, Bobby Brown, Ryan Phillippe, Nick Lachey, and discarded Madonna boyfriends such as Dennis Rodman, Jose Canseco, and Vanilla Ice. They could form a reality-show band, and K-Fed would be a natural, doing puppet dances in the background and taking Lachey’s dog out for a walk every morning.



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