Snoop Dogg's No Limit Debut Lands At #1

Rapper returns to the top spot while swing bands continue to make their mark.

History repeated itself on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, as gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg once again barked his way to the top of the chart in his first week.

In 1993, the then-21-year-old rapper (then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg) made history with his career debut solo album, Doggystyle, the first album by a new artist to bow-wow-wow into the #1 spot.

In its debut week of release, Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told -- Snoop's third album and first for rapper/entrepreneur Master P's red-hot No Limit label -- unseated reigning chart kings the Beastie Boys, selling 524,000 copies in the week ending Aug. 9, according to SoundScan. The Beasties' fifth full-length album, Hello Nasty, slid to #3 on sales of 197,000, bringing their total sales up to 1.4 million.

Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, which features such songs as "Gin & Juice II" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Still A G Thang," has suffered from critical barbs, but some retailers said they are still hopeful that the album will hang tight at the upper regions of the charts, following the lead of label chief Master P (whose MP Da Last Don dropped from #14 to #17). The hope is that it won't debut high and quickly plummet, like such lesser-known No Limit acts as Mac (whose Shell Shocked plunged from #25 to #41).

Melissa Bieniek, an assistant manager at Camelot Music in New Orleans, said last week that she thought Snoop's marquee value alone will keep him at the top of the charts longer than most other No Limit releases. "This won't be like [the sales for] other No Limit albums, which are awesome at first and then completely die down a week later," she predicted. "He's the biggest artist on No Limit, which distinguishes him from everyone else."

At the Lincoln Center location of Tower Records in Manhattan, N.Y., supervisor Kevin Maxwell said the lack of an advance video or single hurt sales in his store and that he'll be interested to see what word of mouth does for the album from Snoop (born Calvin Broadus). "No Limit stuff sells to half a million people no matter what," Maxwell explained, "so I think it will be interesting to see how many of [Snoop's] older fans pick up the album."

In other top-10 news, quirky-pop band Barenaked Ladies saw their album Stunt, which features the hit single "One Week" (RealAudio excerpt), climb one notch higher to #5, on a 3,000-unit sales bump to 106,000 copies. That brings Stunt's grand total to 542,000, enough to earn the Ladies a gold record award (500,000 sold) from the Recording Industry Association of America.

Snoop's closest competition this week was from the Aerosmith-centric Armageddon: The Album, which held tight at the #2 spot with sales of 203,000. A total of 21 movie albums could be found on the top 200 this week, with the classical-flavored Ever After debuting at #100, while There's Something About Mary, fueled by songs from cult singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman, bounced 36 spots to #149. Also moving upward were the two new wave-dominated soundtracks from "The Wedding Singer," with the first edition jumping from #126 to #72, while the second volume leaped from #69 to #42.

It was another good week for swing-revival bands, as a trio of releases

continue to jump, jive and wail around the charts while welcoming another soldier to their ranks. Hot jazz favorites Squirrel Nut Zippers scored the second-highest debut of the week, placing their third album

Perennial Favorites, which features "Suits Are Picking Up the Bill", at #18 on sales of 53,000.

Meanwhile, the Brian Setzer Orchestra jumped two spots to #16 after seeing a sales move from 56,000 to 59,000, bringing the former Stray Cats frontman's total sales up to 298,000. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies' Zoot Suit Riot held strong at #20 with sales of 51,000 to bring their grand total up to 897,000. Lastly, "Swingers" house band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's self-titled release climbed three spots to #47, with sales holding tight at 29,000 for a second week in a row, bringing their total up to 435,000.

Tom Maxwell, vocalist for the Squirrel Nut Zippers, attributes the recent success of swing-revival bands to a combination of higher power and musical Darwinism. "I would attribute it to the Man," he said. "I believe in convergence, like biological convergence. Different animals grow wings, people have turned away from standard-issue rock 'n' roll expression."

He also pointed out that, while he's happy for the success, he wished people wouldn't lump these diverse groups together in one category. "Trying to make music that sounds dated is risky," he said. "Some disco records really kick ass more, but most are more or less crap and you're left wondering, 'Why did I buy that?' That's what we're trying to get away from."

The rest of the top 10: Various Artists, Dr. Dolittle: The Album (#4); Various Artists, City Of Angels soundtrack (#6); Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys (#7); Jermaine Dupri, Jermaine Dupri Presents: Life In 1472 (#8); 'N Sync, 'N Sync (#9); and Brandy, Never S-A-Y Never (#10).