Jay-Z's Exit Makes Big Entrance On Billboard Albums Chart

Tupac soundtrack #2, G-Unit's Beg for Mercy #3.

By a margin of just 33,000 copies, Jay-Z was able to stave off albums by Tupac and G-Unit to take the top slot on the Billboard albums chart in a tight race that pitted hip-hop's past, present and future against each other.

Jay's supposed swan song, The Black Album, sold more than 463,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan figures released Wednesday (November 19). Even more impressive, his third-largest opening-week tally — behind last year's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse and 2000's The Dynasty Roc La Familia, which opened with 545,000 and 557,000 in weekly sales, respectively— is the result of only three days in stores. After bootleg copies surfaced on the Internet and on the streets, the LP's release date was moved up from November 28 to Friday (see "G-Unit, Jay-Z To Duke It Out In Stores").

The same rush to stores happened to G-Unit's debut album, Beg for Mercy, though with lesser results. 50 Cent's crew — Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks and Young Buck — moved more than 376,000 copies in the three-day cycle to take the #3 slot, falling short of Tupac's latest posthumous album, the soundtrack to "Tupac: Resurrection," by roughly 55,000 copies. The tracks on "Resurrection" are considered among the best to surface since the prolific rapper's 1996 death. Collaborations with Eminem and 50 Cent didn't hurt the album's allure, either.

Fourth place goes to the decidedly un-thug Josh Groban. The vocalist's second album, Closer, sold more then 375,000 copies last week. Its predecessor, 2001's Josh Groban, debuted at #127 but went on to sell more than 3.5 million copies.

Kid Rock's cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love" helped his self-titled sixth album seduce a spot at #8, with more than 188,000 copies sold. Rock's previous album, 2001's Cocky, bowed at #7 with 223,000 copies and wound up selling more than 4 million, fueled by the crossover single "Picture."

Pink's third album, Try This, featuring the hit "Trouble," sold more than 147,000 copies to come in at #9, right behind Kid Rock. Coincidentally, when Rock's Cocky and Pink's Missundazstood dropped the same week two years ago, the rap-rocker also edged out the rebellious problem child by one notch on the chart, though both artists enjoyed stronger sales then than now.

The remainder of the top 10 finds last week's #1, Toby Keith's Shock'n Y'all, falling to #5 (with more than 227,000 copies sold); Now That's What I Call Music! 14 sliding three to #6 (195,000); Sarah McLachlan's Afterglow dropping five to #7 (191,000); and The Very Best of Sheryl Crow dropping six to #10 (141,000).

Multi-disc sets from Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam take the #14 and #15 spots. Two of the three discs that comprise The Essential Bruce Springsteen, which sold more than 89,000 copies, collect his greatest hits, while the third features outtakes and rarities. Unreleased tracks, B-sides and rarities are all that make up Pearl Jam's Lost Dogs. The band's 30-track fulfillment of its Epic Records contract fell just shy of Springsteen's set by around 300 copies.

The live Another 700 Miles EP, featuring 3 Doors Down performing their hits "Duck and Run," "When I'm Gone" and "Kryptonite," comes in at #21, while Stone Temple Pilots' best-of set, Thank You, earns a #26 showing for the recently disbanded quartet.

Major second-week drop-offs hit the latest albums from P.O.D. and Wyclef Jean. After moving more than 105,000 copies of Payable on Death two weeks ago, P.O.D.'s sales dropped by 59 percent, plunging the album from #9 to #29. Jean's The Preacher's Son, meanwhile, could sure use some help from above. On the heels of a disappointing #22 debut, it sinks to #44 after sales slumped from 49,000 to 34,000 copies.

Nick Lachey's SoulO comes in at #51. Incidentally, wife Jessica Simpson's latest, In This Skin, bowed at #10 with more than twice as many copies sold when it dropped in August.

Other notable chart debuts include R&B crooner Dave Hollister's Real Talk at #42; Matchbox Twenty's descriptively titled EP at #43; prog-metallers Dream Theater's Train of Thought at #53; the soundtrack to chick flick "Love Actually," with contributions from Kelly Clarkson, Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell, at #56; and Here I Am, a collaboration of pop songsmith Burt Bacharach and Ronald Isley, at #73.