Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Courtesy Photo

Kendrick Lamar scores his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as his earlier-than-expected release To Pimp a Butterfly bows atop the list. 

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).

The album -- which was initially slated to bow on March 27 but was pushed forward to a March 16 release -- starts with 363,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending March 22, according to Nielsen Music. The set, which is Lamar’s second full-length major label effort, was released through Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope Records. The album’s title and original release date was only announced on March 11.

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To Pimp a Butterfly sold 324,000 copies in its first week -- comprising 89 percent of its overall unit total. That 324,000 launch is the second-largest sales week of 2015, behind only the debut frame of Drake’s surprise album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (495,000).

Lamar’s last album, 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, debuted and peaked at No. 2, selling 241,000 copies. (It was stuck behind Taylor Swift’s also-arriving Red, which blasted in with 1.21 million.)

Last week's No. 1 album, the Empire TV soundtrack, slips to No. 2 in its second week with a very light 16 percent decline to 110,000 units. Its sales also held on well, falling just 19 percent to 89,000 sold. The Fox TV series wrapped its first season on March 18.

Rock band Modest Mouse debuts at No. 3 with its new album Strangers To Ourselves, as it bows with 77,000 units. Ninety-five percent of its first week is comprised of traditional album sales (73,000). The group's last studio album, 2007's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, debuted at No. 1 with 129,000 sold.

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The Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack is steady at No. 4 with 60,000 units (down 16 percent), Taylor Swift's 1989 is also a non-mover at No. 5 with 56,000 (down 10 percent). Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late steps up one rung to No. 6 with 52,000 (down 11 percent) and Ed Sheeran's x rises 8-7 with 49,000 (down 8 percent).

Marina and the Diamonds (aka solo singer Marina Diamandis) debuts at No. 8 with Froot, notching her first top 10 album. The set is her third studio effort, and it moved 46,000 units in its first week. Of that figure, 43,000 were pure album sales -- her best sales week ever. She previously visited the Billboard 200 with 2012's Electra Heart (peaking at No. 31) and 2010's The Family Jewels (No. 138).

Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour descends 6-9 with 46,000 units (down 24 percent) and Maroon 5's V closes out the top 10, falling one position to No. 10 with 44,000 (down 7 percent).