The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new July 29-dated chart (where JAY-Z starts at No. 1) will be posted in full to Billboard’s websites on Tuesday, July 18.
4:44 was initially issued on June 30 (via S. Carter Enterprises/Roc Nation) for one week of streaming exclusivity through Tidal. However, Tidal did not report data for the album to Nielsen Music for the week ending July 6, so the album did not debut on the July 22-dated chart. (In addition, by July 2, the album was also offered as a free download -- sponsored by Sprint -- via the web site 444.tidal.com. The free downloads were ineligible to chart, per Billboard’s current pricing policy.)
Then, on July 7, the album became widely available to most streaming services (but not Spotify, as JAY-Z pulled his catalog from the service in April) and to retailers as both a download and CD (with three bonus tracks).
Overall, 4:44’s launch of 262,000 units grants the album the fourth-largest week of 2017, behind the debuts of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. (603,000 units), Drake’s More Life (505,000) and Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide) (451,000).
Of 4:44’s 174,000 sales in the week ending July 13, the set sold 131,000 as a download and 43,000 on CD.
Despite 4:44’s absence from Spotify, the album still generated the fourth-biggest streaming debut of 2017. Of its total 262,000-unit start, 7,000 were in TEA units, while SEA units represented 82,000 units. The latter sum equals 122.4 million streams of the album’s songs. In terms of streaming debuts in 2017, it trails only Drake’s More Life (257,000 SEA units; 384.8 million song streams), Lamar’s DAMN. (227,000 SEA units; 340.6 million song streams) and Sheeran’s ÷ (90,000 SEA units; 134.6 million song streams).
JAY-Z’s previous album, Magna Carta…Holy Grail, debuted at No. 1 in 2013 with 528,000 copies sold in its first week (before the chart transitioned to a consumption-ranked tally in 2014). Like 4:44, Magna Carta was issued in a unique fashion: it was first released (on July 4, 2013) as a free download to certain Samsung phone and tablet users who had downloaded a JAY-Z-centric app. (One million copies were available for free to fans through the app.) It then became widely available to retailers on July 9.
Every one of JAY-Z’s solo studio albums have reached No. 1 since 1998’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (which was also his first No. 1). His 14 chart-toppers also include three collaborative efforts: one each with R. Kelly (Unfinished Business), Linkin Park (MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups Presents: Collision Course) and Kanye West (Watch the Throne).
The rest of the new top 10 on the July 29-dated Billboard 200 chart will be revealed in a separate story posting later today (July 16).