Ashanti Bests Beyonce To Rule Billboard Albums Chart

Chapter II's pole position gives Ashanti two consecutive #1 albums.

With a top-notch placement on next week's Billboard albums chart, Ashanti is the new queen of the R&B divas.

The Murder Inc. princess' second album, Chapter II, sold more than 316,000 copies, according to SoundScan, besting first-week sales of Beyoncé's solo debut by about 10,000 copies. Beyoncé's Dangerously in Love drops to #2, having sold more than 183,000 copies in its second week.

Chapter II's pole position gives Ashanti two consecutive #1 albums. While last week's tally is impressive, it's still a far cry from the first-week total achieved by her self-titled debut, which sold more than half a million copies when it was released in April 2002.

There isn't a lot of movement within the top 10, though album sales for most artists declined overall. With a weekly draw of more than 84,000 copies, Michelle Branch's second album felt the biggest depression with a 71,000-copy dip. Hotel Paper drops from #2 to #4.

Three 6 Mafia's Da Unbreakables takes the biggest chart slide, however. The Memphis rappers' latest LP, which features a collaboration with fellow hometown musician Saliva's Josey Scott on "Mosh Pit," moves six spots down to #10.

The remainder of the top 10 includes Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father remaining at #3 (100,000) while losing more than 19,000 in sales; 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' taking a step forward to #5, due to the fact that it held onto its 78,000-copy total; Metallica's St. Anger dropping a place to #6 (71,000) with a 15,000-copy dip; Evanescence's Fallen advancing a spot to #7; Monica's After the Storm falling one spot to #8 (65,000) and experiencing a 13,000-copy depression; and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me lingering at #9 (63,000).

The only other top-40 debut comes courtesy of country singer Buddy Jewel, whose self-titled debut places at #13.

Gang Starr and Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz each make significant strides, albeit in opposing directions. After its second week in stores, Gang Starr's sixth album, Ownerz, plunges from #18 to #40, while losing more than 22,000 in weekly sales. Meanwhile, Atlanta trio Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz's third album, Kings of Crunk, surges 15 spots to #43 thanks in part to the single "Get Low."

After its second week, Bittersweet falls 31 spots, from #37 to #68, a move likely to cause its creator, Blu Cantrell, to feel more the former than the latter.

Other notable debuts include the compilation Totally Hip-Hop, featuring cuts from Missy Elliott and Ludacris, Sean Paul, Justin Timberlake and the Clipse, at #48; Green Book by Insane Clown Posse protégés Twiztid, at #52; Totally R&B, touting contributions from Tyrese, Usher and Alicia Keys, at #66; Florida metalcore quintet Poison the Well's major-label debut, You Come Before You, at #98; Our Lady Peace's concert LP Live at #112; skate punks Me First & the Gimme Gimme's Take a Break at #131; and B2K's remix EP The Remixes: Vol. 2 at #192.