Jay-Z Ousts "8 Mile"

Rapper scores fifth straight Number One record

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Next week is technically Super Tuesday, the day the major record labels release blockbuster albums in hopes of massive holiday sales, but this whole month has been a thirty-day Super Tuesday. After a year of cruddy album sales, the first week of the month saw some strong entries by the likes of Justin Timberlake, U2, Jaheim, the Dave Matthews Band, David Gray, Eric Clapton and the Wallflowers. This week, new albums by Audioslave, George Harrison, Matchbox Twenty and Talib Kweli found their way into stores, and next week Sum 41, Whitney Houston, Busta Rhymes, Tim McGraw, Paul McCartney and Snoop Dogg join the fray.

Which brings us to last week's releases. And there were plenty. In the Top Ten, only The Eminem Show (Number Nine with sales of 115,000) has been in stores for more than a month. For that matter, only six albums in the Top Twenty-five have been released for four weeks or more.

As for the top of the heap, Jay-Z's double-CD The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse ousted the 8 Mile soundtrack from Number One, with sales of 545,000, according to SoundScan. It's the fifth consecutive Number One for Jigga, a run of chart domination that suggests his blueprint is a sound one. And for those who thought the 426,000 copies that The Blueprint sold last year was a sign that his star was beginning to dim, this week's tally falls just shy of his best first-week figure, the 560,000 copies that The Dynasty: Roc La Familia sold in 2000. And the sales spike suggests that Jay-Z's recording pace (eight releases since 1996) has done nothing to water down his constituency.

Perhaps most impressive about The Blueprint 2's success was the crowded playing field it drew. The 8 Mile soundtrack is still selling strong, moving 400,000 units and marching towards the 2 million mark. Then there were more newcomers: Missy Elliott's Under Construction sold 259,000 at Number Three, Pearl Jam's Riot Act sold 166,000 (Number Five), TLC's 3D moved 143,000 at Number Six and 3 Doors Down also cracked the Top Ten at Number Eight with 115,000 sales of Away From the Sun.

There were plenty of additional freshmen: Elton John's Greatest Hits: 1970-2002 continued a yearlong trend of successful compilations, selling 101,000 copies at Number Twelve. Saliva's Back Into Your System (Number Nineteen with sales of 69,000), Sean Paul's Dutty Rock (Number Twenty-six, 60,000), O-Town's O2 (Number Twenty-eight, 52,000), Phil Collins' Testify (Number Thirty, 51,000) and Fat Joe's Loyalty (Number Thirty-one, 45,000) also opened strong.

This week's Top Ten: Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse; the 8 Mile soundtrack; . Missy Elliott's Under Construction; Justin Timberlake's Justified; Pearl Jam's Riot Act; TLC's 3D; Christina Aguilera's Stripped; 3 Doors Down's Away From the Sun; Eminem's The Eminem Show; and Santana's Shaman.