He’s back. Beating early projections, Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come, his first record since ”retiring” in 2003, sold a stellar 680,000 copies its first week in stores. Not only did the disc score the year’s third-biggest bow — Rascal Flatts’ 722,000 mark back in April is still No. 1 — but the rapper-turned-CEO gave some much-needed hope to the hip-hop community. Why? After a brutally slow year, the genre is suddenly hot again, especially when you factor in solid debuts from Snoop Dogg (No. 5 with 264,000) and The Game (a 358,000 opening in November). And since December boasts more MC millionaires than a party on Diddy’s yacht — with discs from Clipse (album due on Nov. 28), Eminem (Dec. 5), Young Jeezy (Dec. 12), and Nas (Dec. 19) — the resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time.
Jay-Z wasn’t the only one celebrating. American Idol grad Chris Daughtry — excuse us, that’s just Daughtry — smashed expectations by moving 304,000 albums for a No. 2 debut. (Aside from Clay Aiken, that’s the best debut from an Idol finalist.) The talent show’s pythonlike grip on pop culture won’t ease soon, with a new season debuting Jan. 16 and fresh releases on the way from Fantasia (Dec. 12), Taylor Hicks (Dec. 12), and Katharine McPhee (Jan. 30, 2007). So don’t worry, America. Your favorite Scrooge — Simon, naturally — will have plenty in his vault for holiday shopping.