Ludacris lands his fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 as "Battle of the Sexes" debuts atop the list with 137,000 . . . It's the first rap album to reach No. 1 in nearly six months . . . the last was Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" back in early October . . . The top 10 also welcomes new entries from Gorillaz, Jimi Hendrix and Broken Bells . . . Last week's No. 1, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," slips to No. 3.


FLASH POINTS

• Ludacris scores his fourth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as "Battle of the Sexes" debuts atop the tally with 137,000 copies. It's the rapper/actor's follow-up to "Theater of the Mind," which peaked at No. 5 upon its opening week with 213,000. Counting "Battle," he's scored seven top 10 sets, including his previous No. 1s "Release Therapy" (2006), "The Red Light District" (2004) and "Chicken N Beer" (2003).

• As Ludacris notches his fourth No. 1 on the Billboard 200, that ties him for the third-most No. 1s among rap acts. His total brings him up to speed with the Beastie Boys, but trails 2Pac, DMX, Eminem and Nas, who each have five No. 1s. The all-time leader among rap acts is Jay-Z, with 11.

• "Battle of the Sexes" is the first rap album to top the Billboard 200 in nearly six months. The last time a hip-hop set crowned the list was when Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" spent its second and final week at No. 1 on the Oct. 3, 2009, chart.

• One last trivia tidbit on "Battle of the Sexes": It's only the second No. 1 album to feature the word "sex" in its title. The first was Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" in 2007.

• As for the second-highest debut on the Billboard 200 this week, the animated band Gorillaz debuts at No. 2 with its third studio effort, "Plastic Beach." It's the act's highest-charting album and it arrives with its best sales week yet—112,000. Gorillaz' previous high rank came when their last studio set, "Demon Days," debuted and peaked at No. 6 with 107,000 in 2005. "Plastic Beach" settles for the runner-up slot on both sides of the Atlantic this week, for over in the United Kingdom, the album starts at No. 2 on the Official Charts Co. album chart behind Boyzone's "Brother."

• Last week's No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," slips to No. 3 with 105,000 (down 17%) in its seventh week on the list.

• The chart's next debut is Jimi Hendrix's "Valleys of Neptune," which starts at No. 4 with 95,000. It's the legendary singer/guitarist's highest-charting album since "The Cry of Love" reached No. 3 in 1971. The new release is a recently discovered collection of previously unreleased studio recordings Hendrix made before he died in 1970. Since his passing, Hendrix has been seemingly ever-present on the Billboard 200, as he's charted 34 posthumous albums, including "Valleys of Neptune."

• Country singer Gary Allan is next in the parade of debuts: His "Get Off on the Pain" arrives at No. 5 with 65,000. It's Allan's fourth straight top 10 album following "Tough All Over" (No. 5 in 2005), "Greatest Hits" (No. 5 in 2007) and "Living Hard" (No. 3 in 2007).

• The final new entry in the top 10 this week comes in at No. 7 from super duo Broken Bells, which sees its self-titled debut bow with 49,000. Broken Bells' members are Brian Burton (aka producer Danger Mouse) and the Shins' singer James Mercer. The latter band most recently charted with "Wincing the Night Away," which debuted and peaked at No. 2 in 2007 with 118,000 in its first week.

• As for the holdovers in the top 10 this week, Sade's "Soldier of Love" is down four rungs to No. 6 with 52,000 (down 34%), Lady Gaga's "The Fame" is down one to No. 8 with 48,000 (down 3%), the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." also drops one spot to No. 9 with 43,000 (down 8%), and Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone" falls seven slots to No. 10 in its second week with 29,000 (down 60%).

• Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending March 14) totaled 6.1 million units, down 3% compared with the sum last week (6.3 million) and down 8% compared to the comparable sales week of 2009 (6.6 million).

• AND NEXT WEEK:

• As for next week's Billboard 200, it's looking like gospel singer/minister Marvin Sapp will earn the highest debut, as industry prognosticators foresee his "Here I Am" album selling as many as 70,000 copies by week's end on Sunday March 21.

• That sales figure may place the album in the top five on next week's chart. His last set, 2007's "Thirsty," peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 but spent a lengthy 81 weeks on the chart. It has sold 710,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its long run on the charts and healthy sales can be attributed in part to his surprise radio hit "Never Would Have Made It," which spent a staggering 56 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart between 2008 and 2009.

• We're guessing that with the current No. 1 and No. 2 albums—Ludacris' "Battle of the Sexes" and Gorillaz' "Plastic Beach"—expected to make sizable second-week sales declines after their debuts this week, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" (No. 3 this past week) could make an encore return to No. 1 next week.

• Aside from Sapp, look for other notable new entries next week from Flobots' "Survival Story," the White Stripes' live set "Under Great White Northern Lights" and Drive-By Truckers' "The Big To-Do."



MARKET WATCH

• Album units, current chart week: 6.1 million units
• DOWN 3% from last week's charts: 6.3 million units
• DOWN 8% from the comparable week in 2009: 6.6 million units
• This week: The top three albums on the Billboard 200 each sell more than 100,000 copies.
• This week last year on the Billboard 200: Kelly Clarkson netted her second No. 1 album as "All I Ever Wanted" premiered atop the chart with 255,000. The-Dream opened at No. 2 with "Love Vs. Money" (151,000) while the previous week's No. 1 album—U2's "No Line on the Horizon"—fell to No. 3 with 132,000 (down 73%).



A LOOK AHEAD

• Among the albums released this week, due on next week's charts: the White Stripes' "Under Great White Northern Lights," Marvin Sapp's "Here I Am," Drive-By Truckers' "The Big To-Do," Dropkick Murphys' "Live on Lansdowne, Boston MA," Flobots' "Survival Story," Fates Warning's "Parallels" and Julieta Venegas' "Otra Cosa."

• Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2009 when: Kelly Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted" remained at No. 1 for a second week, selling 90,000 copies (down 65%) while the chart's highest debut came from Gorilla Zoe's "Don't Feed the Animals" at No. 8 with 31,000.