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Big debut for Lil Wayne

The rapper's 'Tha Carter III' grabs more than 1 million in sales. That's a first in more than three years.

June 19, 2008|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Like a superhero arriving in the nick of time, rapper Lil Wayne has swooped in to stem the tide, however briefly, of both the record business' general slump and the steeper slide that rap music has suffered in recent years.

The New Orleans rhymer's "Tha Carter III" has become the first album to top the 1 million sales mark during its first week in stores since 50 Cent's "The Massacre" more than three years ago. It also is the first rap album to top the national sales chart since Jay-Z's "American Gangster" held that spot in November.

"I'm sure there are people who thought we wouldn't see a 1 million copy week again," Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's charts director, said Wednesday. "This doesn't mean there isn't trouble in the music business, but it does mean if you have the right record at the right time, it's still possible."

The fact that Lil Wayne, who is less a household name outside hip-hop circles than Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem or 50 Cent, managed to hit that threshold speaks to the groundswell of popularity he has generated through a string of singles and mix-tapes released over the Internet in the last year.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, June 20, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Hip-hop albums: An article in Thursday's Calendar section about Lil Wayne's new album, "Tha Carter III," said it was the first hip-hop album to hold the No. 1 position since Jay-Z's "American Gangster" did so in November. Rick Ross' "Trilla" went to No. 1 in March.

His single "Lollipop," which he sang Monday at his release-week concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, is one of the year's biggest hits. In recent weeks it has ridden high on both Billboard's Hot 100, which measures radio airplay, physical and digital sales, and the magazine's Hot Digital Tracks chart, indicating its popularity as a download.

"There had been a lot of anticipation building for the album," Mayfield said. "It shipped 1.3 million copies, which is a number like the old days."

It's a dramatic step up for Lil Wayne, whose previous album, "Tha Carter II," sold 238,000 copies during its first week in stores in 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and peaked at No. 2 on the chart. The closest anyone has come to the 1 million sales week since 50 Cent was West, whose "Graduation" album logged a first-week figure of 957,000 last September.

Anticipation is also high for Coldplay's new "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends" album, which was released Tuesday, although the band is not expected to follow Lil Wayne across the 1 million barrier when sales figures are released next week.

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randy.lewis@latimes.com

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