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Britney Spears was recently thrust back into the limelight after a documentary about her career reignited several age-old conversations. Jumping onto the scene at an early age, Spears quickly learned the dangers of being a universal figure as the celebrity-focused media started getting even bigger. One of her most famous moments, her marriage to backup dancer Kevin Federline, was the precursor for the most poorly-reviewed rap album in history. 

Britney Spears smiling in front of a white background
Britney Spears | Jason LaVeris / Getty Images

What happened between Britney and Kevin?

According to The Washington Post, Spears met Federline on tour. A backup dancer by trade, Federline and the pop star hit it off. Spears was on the lookout for something lower profile than her previous relationships because of a high-profile Vegas marriage and ensuing annulment. However, she quickly learned that it didn’t matter who she dated, the media would run with it.

Spears spoke about the media storm that followed her relationship with Federline in a sit-down dialogue with Interview Magazine. Still the biggest pop star on the planet at the time, Spears told the publication that she couldn’t help but chuckle at the way that the media portrayed her. At the time, every newsstand in the country likely had a tabloid headline about the new ‘it’ couple. Spears and Federline were married from 2004 to 2007, divorcing for irreconcilable differences. The couple has two children.

Federline plays with fire

As a recording artist, Federline claimed that he wanted his music to be viewed through an entirely different lens than his relationship and tabloid appeal. However, despite the claims to the contrary, Spears executive produced the album. While the pop star had little creative input on the project, she helped Federline establish a team that could bring the album to the mainstream without the typical pipeline. 

With the much-ridiculed lead single “Popozao” taking the country by storm in the exact wrong way, no one knew what to make of Federline’s album. However, while nobody expected the dancer-turned-rapper to write the new Illmatic, the bad reviews were still jarring. One look at Metacritic’s review section, and it’s clear that critics didn’t just dislike it. They loathed it. 

Vibe: His constipated, region-nonspecific flow overwhelms even the most flamboyant beats. [Jan 2007, p.119]

AllMusic: The worst thing about Playing with Fire is that it’s too stale and inept to inspire laughter: it can only elicit weary groans.

Despite Federline’s insistence that he wanted to be viewed through his music, Entertainment Weekly saw the album as a shameless attempt to capitalize on the superstar he was married to at the time. 

Entertainment Weekly: Other rappers might hesitate to brag about marrying into bling, but Federline isn’t self-conscious about it. 

Playing With Fire boasts the dubious honor of having the lowest Metacritic score of all time. Whether it was the lousy music, the forgettable flow, the oversaturation of Federline at the time, or a combination of this all, the album was instantly infamous. They are now divorced while sharing custody of their children. However, Federline isn’t done making music in more ways than one. 

Oops, he’ll do it again


How Many Kids Does Britney Spears Have?

Spears and Federline are long separated. However, with joint custody of their children, the pair appears to be on good speaking terms. However, despite moving on from his days as Britney Spears’ arm candy, Federline still wants to create music. According to a 2016 interview with Page Six, he garners five-figures to DJ around the country. This, according to Federline, rekindled his love of music. 

“My musical inspiration is life and events that have happened to me,” Federline told Page Six. “I’ve got a lot to talk about … As far as getting back into music, I started DJing a few years ago so I never really left the music. I just kind of took some time off to really spend time with my kids while they were young.”

Whether this comes into fruition, perhaps the lack of oversaturation on the newsstand can give the father of six a new outlook. Still, looking back at Federline’s debut album, it’s a fascinating time capsule of just how big his marriage to Spears was during the early new millennium.