Whoa Nelly? Not likely. This week the St. Louis based rapper tops Billboard’s album chart by selling 235,000 copies of his debut, ”Country Grammar.” Since its release seven weeks ago, the set has continued to surprise industry observers with its hold on the top 10. (The usual trajectory for a new hip hop album is a strong first week showing followed by a steep second week drop.) But Nelly’s bouncy, infectious as the mumps single ”(Hot S**t) Country Grammar” — which is No. 10 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart — continues to fuel album sales. ”It’s a perfect song for the summer,” says Stephen Hill, VP of programming at Black Entertainment Television, which has been playing the ”Hot” video since May. ”It’s high energy, sing-song-y, and fun.”
The album may owe at least some of its success to a lack of new competition. ”This is the worst summer for new releases as far as I can remember,” says Paul Penrose, an urban music specialist at Valley Media in California. ”People are going out now to buy Nelly because they’ve heard good things about it and there’s really nothing else to buy.” Indeed, the only new release in the top 10 this week is De La Soul’s ”Art Official Intelligence,” which sold 81,000 units to land at No. 9.
Elsewhere, the top 10 is almost a carbon copy of last weeks’ chart, and, oh yeah, the week before that too: Oops… Britney Spears does it again for the 13th week by holding steady at No. 2. ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! 4” drops from the top spot, which the pop compilation held for three consecutive weeks, and lands at No. 3. Rounding out the top 5 is ranting rapper Eminem at No. 4, and teen popsters ‘N Sync at No. 5.
The bottom half of the top 10, though, is more rockin’ than rappin’ with Creed (now without founding member Brian Marshall, who left the band last week) at No. 6, Papa Roach at No. 7, and 3 Doors Down at No. 8. And carrying the flag for hip hop and R&B are the debuting De La Soul and the ”Nutty Professor II” soundtrack, which slips from No. 9 to No. 10. Sure, this is bad news for the ”Nutty” folks, but after three weeks of virtual chart inertia, any change is a relief.