In a year that has seen many a hip-hop album surge to the top of the charts and then, just as suddenly, plunge out of the top 10, rapper Jay-Z is proving the exception to the rule.
His Volume 2: Hard Knock Life remained at the #1 slot on the Billboard 200 albums chart for the second week in a row, holding back such competitors as fellow rappers Bizzy Bone and Kurupt and such mainstream rockers as Phil Collins and John Mellencamp.
The album, Jay-Z's third, is the follow-up to 1997's Volume 1 -- In My Lifetime and features the hit title-track, "Hard Knock Life" (RealAudio excerpt).
According to SoundScan, the company that tracks record sales, rapper (and Roc-A-Fella Records CEO) Jay-Z moved 208,000 copies of Volume 2: Hard Knock Life in the week ending Oct. 11, bringing his two-week total to 562,000. That's enough to earn a gold record (500,000 copies sold) from the Recording Industry Association of America. Earning a gold record after only two weeks is a feat achieved this year only by a select group of artists, including punk-rappers the Beastie Boys (whose Hello Nasty landed this week at #16) and Fugees singer/rapper Lauryn Hill (whose The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill remained at #2).
Some other highly anticipated releases as of late, however, have yet to earn gold-record status.
Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, for example, shifted 58,000 copies of Mechanical Animals, bringing his four-week total to 453,000, just under the gold mark. Grunge-goddess Courtney Love also has yet to earn the award for her latest project, as Hole's Celebrity Skin has sold 319,000 copies since its release five weeks ago. Mechnical Animals came in this week at #20, while Celebrity Skin rested at #31.
Nipping at Jay-Z's heels this week was Heaven'z Movie, the first solo album from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony member Bizzy Bone. It landed at #3 after selling 130,000 copies.
Also debuting in the top 10 is ANTRA records CEO (and former member of Tha Dogg Pound) Kurupt, who nestled in at #8 with his first solo album, Kuruption!. A two-CD set, it features one disc of beats-and-rhymes East Coast rap and one disc of groove-centered West Coast rap -- including the single "We Can Freak It" (RealAudio excerpt). It sold 82,000 copies in its first week of release.
Falling just short of the top 10 this week was the #11-charting IV from ganja-rappers Cypress Hill. The group built up anticipation for the album by previewing such songs as "Checkmate Fool" (RealAudio excerpt) on this year's Smokin' Grooves tour.
But group-member DJ Muggs said he thought the album would "creep up" on people instead of making a big splash. "When records are over publicized, like they're going to do all this and that, they're usually sloppy because they don't live up to the expectations," Muggs said. "But this is gonna slap those m-----f---ers in the back of their head, because they ain't ready for it and don't know what to expect."
Also coming in just short of the top 10 was The Recipe from West Coast-rapper Mack 10, which bowed at #15. Creeping up behind the rappers at #18 was pop-rock drummer/singer (and former Genesis frontman) Collins, whose Hits album came in at #18.
Further down the charts, quirky rockers Cake debuted at #33 with Prolonging the Magic, followed closely by rappers Twista & Speedknot Mobstaz at #34 with Mobstability, gangsta-rappers Prime Suspects at #36 with Guilty Til Proven Innocent, the various-artists collection VH1 Divas Live at #37 and '80s synth-pop giants Depeche Mode's Singles 86>98 at #38.
Heartland-rocker Mellencamp's self-titled record bowed at #41, while rapper Tela's Now or Never staked its claim at #49. Ska-rockers Less Than Jake came in at #80 with Hello Rockview, Brazilian heavy-metal band Sepultura thrashed into the #82 spot with Against and No Depression-band Son Volt showed up at #93 with Wide Swing Tremolo.
On the lower half of the chart, the various-artists collection So So Def Bass All-Stars debuted in the #129 slot, while pop singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik bowed at #163 with Humming.
An unexpected debut on the lower half of this week's chart is Heather Nova's Siren, which comes in at #176. Originally released in June of this year, the album's sales-boost is likely tied to the singer/songwriter's "London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)" (RealAudio excerpt) being featured on a recent episode of the Warner Bros.-network's drama-hit "Felicity." The song was used in the episode and given a plug at the end of the show, which included a shot of the album cover.
Another artist getting a boost this week is former House of Pain frontman Everlast. His first post-House of Pain album, Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, climbed this week from #173 to #144 with sales of 10,000. Sales for the album, which features such bluesy-rap songs as "What It's Like," have increased each week since its release, with his total sales now standing at 33,000.
The rest of the top 10: N'Sync, N'Sync (#4); Aquemini, Outkast (#5); The Globe Sessions, Sheryl Crow (#6); Come On Over, Shania Twain (#7); The Nu Nation Project, Kirk Franklin (#9); and Stunt, Barenaked Ladies (#10).