NEW YORK - The rap debut of Kevin Federline - known as K-Fed to some but to most as Mr. Britney Spears - features only a snippet of his lyrical prowess. Given the response to it, even less might have been better. "PopoZao," Brazilian-inspired groove which features Federline rapping about large posteriors in-between a few yelps and a gruff-voiced chorus, made its debut on the Internet earlier this month.
Though the track is three minutes long and Federline's rap lasts for less than a minute, it has already become a popular music track circulating on the Web.
But popular and likable are two distinct notions when it comes to "PopoZao." Entertainment Weekly said it was worse than expected while the music trade magazine Billboard called it "a monument to mediocrity."
"It's incredible - incredibly horrible," laughs DJ Star of the raucous Star & Buc Wild show, which broadcasts from New York's Power 105.1 but is syndicated nationally.
"The good news is there's a lot of exposure for him; the bad news is 75 percent are rating it as an 'F,'" says Brian Isquith, executive director at AOL Music, which devoted a whole page - mockingly titled "The Emancipation of K-Fed" - to the song, and allowed visitors to rate "PopoZao." He said a half-million visitors have been on the site and about 85,000 have played the song.
"So far, there's a lot of interest but not a lot of people yet are feeling this is a great song or his career is going to go," he said.
Still, Federline bets he'll end up having the last laugh once his album, as yet untitled, is released this spring.
"I'm not too worried about any of that," Federline said of the negative reviews in an interview last week with The Associated Press. "Eventually the music will speak for itself. You're only going to look at me like this for so long."
The public hasn't had much of a positive view ever since Spears thrust the baggy pants-wearing, chain-smoking Federline into the spotlight as her backup dancer - and boyfriend - in 2004. The couple's trashy exploits since hooking up - including televising their quickie romance on the reality show "Chaotic" and wearing tracksuits at their wedding celebration (his read "Pimp Daddy" on the back) - have helped make K-Fed a tabloid-target and late-night show joke magnet.
"He's running a close second for pimp of the decade," says Star. "He's right behind Bobby Brown."
Lately, gossip mongers have suggested that Spears, who recently gave birth to son Sean, is tiring of Federline's alleged party ways, though Federline denies the rumors of strife.
"I love my kids, I'm a proud father, a happy husband, and all of that," says Federline, who also has two children with ex-girlfriend Shar Jackson. "I live my life with my wife as a normal person and that's that."
And Federline says he hasn't been spending most of his time partying, but working on the upcoming album.
"I've been in the closet with it for a while," says Federline. "I don't know, guess I would have to say I'm the rookie of the year."
Besides a guest appearance from rapper Petey Pablo, Federline says there will be no guest stars on his upcoming album. Nor will the album be produced by any major industry producers, and he doesn't yet have a record label - a curiosity, since, given his wife's A-list status, he could have used her connections to get a deal. The first single was released through Yahoo Music Unlimited.
While a lack of a major label may indicate a lack of industry interest, Federline says he intentionally eschewed major labels and producers because "I wanted to do this myself, I wanted to find my people, and I wanted to record the music that I wanted people to hear. It's a little different."
That it is. His first song is more club oriented - most of the song is infused with exotic beats and chants. "The record is everywhere. It's definitely going to be kind of a dance club record," says Federline, who plans to perform his music in clubs in the coming months.
Federline describes the rest of the album as "crazy," "down south," and "gutta." He adds his wife has been supportive of his record and even recorded a song with him, though the public likely won't hear it for a while - he's holding off so people won't think he's trying to ride his wife's multiplatinum coattails.
"The support and the advice that she gives to me is advice that any wife would give to her husband, " says Federline. "She's there for me, she loves the music."
Even with Spears' direct involvement, Isquith says Federline's notoriety can only help him as he brings his music to the masses.
"He's doing very well. That's a lot of reaction and a lot of play," he says. "And clearly for any other new artist, without the controversy around the song and the general media attention, they would never have the chance of having 500,000 people visit a page in a couple of weeks."
And radio airplay could soon follow. Even though Star dissed the record, he vowed to play it.
"Who am I to say to say he doesn't have his pulse on his generation?" asks Star, who added that despite the negative feedback, Federline may still have his hit.
"Radio is a mind-altering and conditioning monster within itself," he says. "You play something 45,000 times ... you're going to start singing it."