Ja Rule has full command of this week's charts, soaring, as expected, to No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally with "Pain Is Love" (Murder Inc./Def Jam). The set sells 361,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan, a nice increase over the 276,000 first-week numbers for last year's "Rule 3:36." His is the only top-10 debut on The Billboard 200, and pushes Jay-Z's "The Blueprint" (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam) down to No. 2 after a three-week reign at the top.
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Ja Rule was readying to drop his sophomore set, "Rule 3:36." Although he was already a star in hip-hop circles, thanks to guest shots with Jay-Z and 1999's "Holla Holla" from his debut, "Venni Vetti Vecci," Ja Rule had yet to catch the ears of mainstream music fans.
Last week, exactly 30 days after its release, 'N Sync's Jive album "Celebrity" was certified five times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Released on July 24, the album quickly rocketed to No. 1 on The Billboard 200 based 1.88 million units sold in its debut week, according to SoundScan. Only the band's "No Strings Attached" had higher first-week numbers with 2.4 million units sold last March.
Def Soul artist Musiq Soulchild leads the list of finalists for Billboard magazine's first R&B/hip-hop Awards show, listed in seven categories, including top R&B/hip-hop album, top R&B/hip-hop artist, and top R&B/hip-hop singles artist. Presented by Heineken, the Aug. 30 ceremony will be held at the New York Hilton, capping the second annual Billboard/BET R&B/hip-hop Conference, taking place Aug. 28-30 at the same venue.