West defeats 50 Cent in rap battle

'Graduation' week draws 957,000

NEW YORK -- It's an exciting week for the Billboard 200 chart, as three of the year's most anticipated releases enter in the top slots. But there was a clear victor in the mid-September battle among rappers Kanye West and 50 Cent and country star Kenny Chesney.

West's "Graduation" (Def Jam) debuts at No. 1 with a walloping 957,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, easily winning the much-publicized head-to-head fight with 50 Cent, whose G-Unit/Interscope album "Curtis" opened at No. 2 with 691,000. 50 Cent has said that he would retire from the rap game if West's album outsold his in its first week.

And that it did. "Graduation" posted the largest weekly sales total in more than two years and the 15th biggest sales frame since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. The last album to move more than that was none other than "The Massacre" by 50 Cent in 2005, with 1.1 million. West's "Late Registration" was the last album to surpass 800,000 copies when it began with 860,000 in August 2005.

The double punch provided by "Graduation" and "Curtis" also marks just the second time in that SoundScan era that two albums have bowed in the same week with more than 600,000 copies.

The last such occasion was in September 1991, when Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion II" led the Billboard 200 with 770,000 copies the same week that the band's companion album "Use Your Illusion I" bowed at No. 2 with 685,000.

"Graduation" also rings up the largest week yet by a digital album download, starting with 133,000, beating the record of 102,000, set this year by Maroon 5's "It Won't Be Soon Before Long."

Meanwhile, Chesney's "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates" (BNA/Sony BMG Nashville) also kicks off with a big number, moving 387,000 to debut No. 3. It's the largest sales week for a country album since the May 2006 arrival of Dixie Chicks' "Taking the Long Way," which opened with 526,000 copies.

Despite the hubbub over the three-way showdown, however, sales were still down 9% compared with the same week last year at 9.16 million.

But while West shot down 50 Cent in the celebrated clash between rappers, the real winners was music merchants. With the Walt Disney "High School Musical 2" soundtrack selling 133,000 copies, the top four titles alone account for 2.2 million units, more than last week's entire Billboard 200 combined.

"HSM2" falls to No. 4 after four weeks at No. 1. Another Disney soundtrack, Miley Cyrus' double-disc set "Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus," slips two spots to No. 5 with 42,000.

Two albums with serious chart legs are next: Fergie's "The Dutchess" (Interscope) falls four rungs to No. 6 with 41,000 as its marks a full year on the Billboard 200, while Nickelback's Roadrunner effort "All the Right Reasons" climbs one slot to No. 7 with 35,000 in its 102nd chart week.

With help from the fast-rising single "Bubbly," Colbie Caillat's Universal Republic debut "Coco" rebounds six places to No. 8 with a 25% sales surge at to 32,000. The "Now 25" hits compilation slips two places to No. 9 with 32,000, while Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" (Jive) re-enters the top 10, jumping two notches with a 14% sales increase to 31,000; the triple-platinum album bowed at No. 1 a year ago this week, moving 684,000 units.

Another big debut this week is the "Grey's Anatomy 3" soundtrack (Hollywood) at No. 16 with 27,000. Trisha Yearwood's "Greatest Hits" (MCA Nashville) lands at No. 22 with 22,000, and B5's "Don't Talk, Just Listen" (Bad Boy) starts at No. 27 with 19,000.

Billboard's Geoff Mayfield contributed to this report.
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