Upstart rapper Canibus, whose new album has been at the center of allegations that its producer, rapper Wyclef Jean, pulled a gun on a hip-hop magazine editor, suddenly finds himself and his record, Can-I-Bus, sitting comfortably in the #2 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week.
His biggest competition among chart debuts was ever-irascible singer Courtney Love, who, despite great anticipation and her high profile, saw her band Hole's third album, Celebrity Skin, land at #9 on sales of 86,000 copies.
Still perched at #1 this week was the critically acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the first solo album from the Fugees singer/rapper, which sold 214,000 copies, bringing its grand total up to 903,000, just short of the platinum mark (1 million sold).
According to album-sales watchdog SoundScan, battle-rhymer Canibus' debut sold 127,000 copies in the week ending Sept. 13 -- enough to send it to the second-highest spot on the albums chart in its first week of release.
Canibus made hip-hop headlines earlier this year with "Second Round K.O." (RealAudio excerpt), a song that jabbed at rap veteran LL Cool J over a behind-the-scenes conflict that took place during the recording of LL's "4,3,2,1," from the album Phenomenon. LL responded to the Canibus track with "The Ripper Strikes Back" (RealAudio excerpt), which included a reference to Wyclef as "a Bob Marley impostor." In turn, Wyclef responded to "The Ripper" with "Retaliation," a rap that implied LL is old and irrelevant.
Can-I-Bus was also the subject of a controversy earlier this month, when Blaze editor Jesse Washington alleged in an editorial that album producer Wyclef Jean displayed a gun when Washington gave him the chance to respond to a negative review that was going to run in the hip-hop magazine's premiere issue. Wyclef has denied the allegations.
Celebrity Skin, too, generated controversy earlier this year when frontwoman Courtney Love and Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan traded barbs through the media about how involved Corgan was in the making of the album. Corgan said he was quite involved; Love countered that Corgan was only in the studio for 12 days. Corgan is given credit with helping to write the music on five of Celebrity Skin's songs: "Petals," "Hit So Hard," "Malibu," "Dying" and the album's first single, "Celebrity Skin" (RealAudio excerpt).
It may seem shocking to see such a high-profile group as Hole move less than 100,000 LPs in the first week of release, but their previous album, Live Through This (1994), sold just 19,000 in its first week of release. It peaked at #54 and took well over a year to go platinum.
Additionally, retail outlets across the U.S. report that Celebrity Skin has sold as expected. At Tower Records in Seattle, the cradle of grunge-rock, sales associate Damien Quinlan said that the store had moved about half the copies they ordered.
"Considering the amount we've sold, I find [Hole's chart position] a little surprising," Quinlan said. "I would have expected it to debut maybe a little higher. Probably not #1, but maybe #5."
Across the continent, at the HMV record store in Philadelphia, the story was the same. "We didn't sell out by a long shot," sales associate Patrick DiGiacomo said. "But it's still been one of our strongest sellers, aside from Canibus and Back To Titanic."
Also debuting this week was These Wicked Streets, the freshman effort from gangsta-rapper Skull Duggery, which landed at #21, and the Missy Elliott-produced soundtrack to "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," which bowed at #55.
In other news, just as Madonna was the big winner at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, taking home six statues, she was also the only one of the show's performers to see a substantial increase in sales as a result of the televised exposure.
Her electronica-fueled Ray of Light, which jumped from #42 to #36, sold 35,000 copies last week, as opposed to 31,000 in the previous week, bringing her grand total up to 2.2 million. The show's other performers -- including punk-rappers the Beastie Boys, swing-revivalists the Brian Setzer Orchestra, jam-rockers the Dave Matthews Band and pop stars the Backstreet Boys -- all matched their previous week's sales or witnessed a sales drop.
Despite the lack of increased sales, some MTV awards-show performers still witnessed chart movement. Wyclef Jean's The Carnival, for example, jumped from #162 to #132, while Prodigy's The Fat of the Land (#189) and Aerosmith's Nine Lives (#179) both reappeared on the charts following their exposure on the awards show.
The rest of the top 10: 'N Sync, 'N Sync (#3); Beastie Boys, Hello Nasty (#4); various artists, Back To Titanic (#5); Barenaked Ladies, Stunt (#6); various artists, Armageddon -- The Album (#7); Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys (#8); and Alan Jackson, High Mileage (#10).