DMX Still At #1 As Overall Album Sales Slow

Jay-Z, Tupac, Lauryn Hill move up on Billboard 200 albums chart.

Hip-hop consistently dominated the Billboard 200 albums chart in 1998. And if the first chart of the new year is any indication, 1999 could see more of the same.

Hardcore rapper DMX's sophomore album, Flesh of My Flesh-Blood of My Blood, which topped the last chart of 1998, has also topped the first chart of '99. Album sales tracker SoundScan reported that DMX's CD moved 248,334 units last week, bringing its two-week total to 918,561. That practically guarantees that Flesh of My Flesh-Blood of My Blood will go platinum (1 million copies sold) in just three weeks.

DMX isn't the only rapper in the top 10. Jay-Z's Vol. II ... Hard Knock Life, which includes the hit title track (RealAudio excerpt) and "Money Ain't A Thang" (RealAudio excerpt), jumped from #10 to #3.

The late Tupac Shakur's greatest-hits collection rose from #11 to #6. And Fugees singer/rapper Lauryn Hill, who scored 10 Grammy nominations Tuesday for her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, climbed from #16 to #10.

While these artists enjoyed upward movement on the chart, overall sales were down because of the post-holiday sales drop-off and winter storms that paralyzed transportation in much of the East and Midwest.

Charts for the previous two weeks reflected sales increases for 75 percent of the top 200 albums. But this week only one album, the soundtrack to "The Faculty," showed an increase, from 33,871 units sold to 39,529. In the process, it jumped from #136 to #59.

"It's almost a joke, isn't it?" said Jim Kvidera, general manager of a Tower Records store in Chicago. "We had a good week before Christmas and a good Christmas week, but this last week of December has turned out to be a disaster." Kvidera said his store closed early Saturday because it wasn't profitable to stay open. And the following days showed little improvement.

"Christmas day is the benchmark for slow sales," Kvidera said, "and we've had days this past week that were worse."

Because of the low overall sales, some relatively old albums finally were able to break into the Billboard 200 albums chart. Orgy, the techno-rock group that toured this fall with Korn on the Family Values tour and was the first band signed to Korn's label, Elementree, made their first chart appearance at #130 after selling 15,178 copies of Candyass. The album debuted on the chart despite selling more than 3,000 fewer copies than the week before.

Also debuting on the chart this week was Detroit-based rap-rocker Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, which was released on Aug. 18. The album, which features the single "I Am The Bullgod," reached #181 after moving 10,113 copies. A week earlier, the album sold 12,058 copies and didn't make the chart.

The slow sales week also sent some holiday chart heroes south. Double Live, a live collection from country crooner Garth Brooks, dropped from #2 to #7. Pop diva Celine Dion, meanwhile, saw her These Are Special Times album dive from #5 to #27.

While Brooks and Dion may be cursing the sales slump, other artists saw the stalled sales of the competition give new life to their slumping projects.

Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals, for example, climbed from #95 to #84, while rapper/producer RZA's Bobby Digital in Stereo jumped from #121 to #97 and West Coast rapper/producer DJ Quik's Rhythm-Al-Ism rocketed from #193 to #129.

Among the albums returning to the Billboard 200 after having falling off are big- beat star Fatboy Slim's You've Come A Long Way, Baby at #174; rapper Mase's Harlem World at #178; Fugees member Pras' Ghetto Superstar at #191; and synth-pop group Depeche Mode's Singles 86-98 at #194.

The rest of the top 10: Offspring, Americana (#2); Mariah Carey, #1's (#4); N' Sync, N' Sync (#5); Jewel, Spirit (#8); and Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys (#9).