AFI Score First Billboard #1; Ice Cube And Yung Joc Open Big

DJ Khaled, 'Cars' soundtrack also rack up imposing first-week sales.

Prior to the release of 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, an album that helped shoot AFI from relative obscurity into the musical mainstream, the Northern California hardcore quartet was largely considered an underground act. But with Decemberunderground, the band’s seventh studio offering, AFI have proven they’re anything but. Following a solid performance during last week’s MTV Movie Awards, the androgynous rockers’ latest album has helped elevate the band to unfamiliar heights, earning the first Billboard-topping debut of its 15-year career.

Decemberunderground sold more than 182,000 copies during its first week out, ousting the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way from the album-sales throne it held for two weeks. According to SoundScan, the initial tally for AFI’s latest nearly doubles the debut of the band’s previous effort — Sing the Sorrow debuted at #5 with 96,000 scans more than three years ago. That album has gone on to sell 1.1 million copies.

“It’s an amazing feeling to have something that you believe in so strongly, that is so much a part of you, touch so many people,” frontman Davey Havok commented in a press release issued late Tuesday. “But it was truly our fans that did this. They have brought us this recognition and we are deeply honored. I am truly elated not just for us but for them as well. This is one for the team.”

But the Dixie Chicks didn’t go down without putting up a fight. Taking the Long Way slides one spot on the chart to #2, with sales coming in at close to 175,000. And while AFI put up the strongest debut, 25 other fresh releases crack the next Billboard top 200 — with four discs bowing in the top 10.

Opening at #3 is rapper Yung Joc’s inaugural LP New Joc City, which put up first-week sales of more than 148,000, besting Ice Cube’s latest, Laugh Now, Cry Later, by nearly 4,000 copies. Cube controls the #4 spot, followed at #5 by the soundtrack to the Disney Channel original movie “High School Musical,” with close to 87,000 scans. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium is at #6 with 86,000 units sold.

The soundtrack to the box office-busting animated film “Cars,” featuring tracks from Sheryl Crow, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley, debuts in the #7 slot with 68,000 in sales, followed at #8 by chart regulars Rascal Flatts’ Me & My Gang with week-10 scans reported at just under 66,000. Rihanna’s Girl Like Me climbs two spots to #9, moving more than 51,000 units, followed at #10 by the 21st installment in the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation series, which netted another 49,000 in retail sales.

The rest of the chart is spattered with newcomers, including Terror Squad’s DJ Khaled and his Listennn. . .The Album, which claims #12 with 44,000 copies sold — just behind Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere, which jumps three spots to #11 with nearly 48,000 scans. Gnarls Barkley’s “Star Wars”-inspired performance at the MTV Movie Awards must have been persuasive, as sales of the disc received a 32 percent boost in the televised ceremony’s wake.

The double-disc Warped Tour ’06 compilation, featuring tracks by Underoath, NOFX, Helmet, Saves the Day and Motion City Soundtrack, among others, opens at #27, selling 30,000 copies during its first week in stores. Koast II Koast, the latest from the Kottonmouth Kings, follows at #39 with 21,000 scans, while Head Automatica’s sophomore outing, Popaganda, debuts at #69 with close to 15,000 week-one sales. Zero 7’s Garden lays claim to the #94 position after generating sales of around 11,000, while Cheap Trick’s Rockford takes the #101 spot with close to 11,000 scans.

Elvis Costello is back in action with River in Reverse, which sits at #103 after more than 10,000 copies were snatched up during the album’s first week in stores. Donavon Frankenreiter’s Move by Yourself follows at #105 with 10,000 scans, just in front of Katie Melua’s Piece By Piece, in at #108 with sales nearing 10,000.

SMACK: Streets Music Arts Culture & Knowledge — The Album, Volume 1, the first official release in the popular street DVD series, comes in at #120 with 8,000 units sold. The CD/DVD set boasts contributions from DMX, B.G., PNC and Juvenile, Redman, Eric Sermon and Keith Murray. The Bouncing Souls’ The Gold Record opens at #141 with nearly 7,000 in sales. Paul Oakenfold’s A Lively Mind ends the week with 6,000 scans, for a #145 debut, while (hed) pe’s Back 2 Base claims the #154 slot with 6,000 sales.

Unsound, a compilation featuring From First to Last, Matchbook Romance, Converge and Bad Religion, takes the #172 spot with more than 5,000 scans, outselling Hopelessly Devoted to You, Vol. 6, a collection featuring tracks by Thrice and Avenged Sevenfold, by 23 copies (the latter finishes at #173). It’s Alive, the latest from the Todd Rundgren-fronted New Cars, debuts at #193 with 5,000 copies sold.

Appearing on the “American Idol” finale two weeks ago really paid off for Live, whose latest album, Songs From Black Mountain, finally makes the chart five weeks after its initial release. With sales of 18,000 (a 570 percent increase), Live’s album occupies the #52 spot.