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A pair of WMG hip-hop records debuted in the Top Five, with Elektra’s Fabolous (#3) and Atlantic’s Lil’ Kim (#4) leading the way.

RICH GETS RICHER!

Three Debuts Hit the Top Six and Norah Continues to Sell, but No One’s as Hot as 50 Cent
After all the post-Grammy sales spikes and high-charting debuts, there’s one new artist who truly stands apart in 2003…and that’s 50 Cent.

The Jamaica, Queens, rapper, an Eminem/Dr. Dre protege, saw his Shady/Aftermath/Interscope bow, Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ move another 356k units this week, bringing his total to nearly 3 million in just over a month (after the release was moved forward five days to Thursday, Feb. 6, to thwart rampant piracy). Talk about bulleting your way to the top.

Defying retail patterns, in which new releases experience anywhere from 30-40% drop-offs after big opening weeks, the 50 Cent disc just keeps chugging along. In fact, the week-to-week decreases have actually lessened, with sales down just 11% this week. This is one smash that’s making its own rules.

Virgin Entertainment Group’s Jerry Suarez offered his two bits of wisdom: "The 50 Cent story continues unabated. I’m actually selling more legitimate albums than pirated mix tapes."

But that wasn’t the only noteworthy action this week. A pair of WMG hip-hop records debuted in the Top Five, with Elektra’s Fabolous (#3) and Atlantic’s Lil’ Kim (#4) leading the way. The other Top 10 bow goes to Wind-up’s rock dark horses, the female-fronted Evanscence, at #6, thanks to the hit, "Bring Me to Life," which is also boosting the Top 25 Daredevil soundtrack on the same label.

Added Suarez: "I’m feeling simply Fabolous about Lil’ Kim, and when I figure out what Evanscence means, I’m sure I’ll be ecstatic about them, too."

A still-strong Norah Jones drops to #2, with her Grammy-honored Blue Note bow racking up another 312k, while Jive’s R. Kelly (#5), Open Wide/Monument/Columbia’s Dixie Chicks (#7), Lava/Atlantic’s Kid Rock (#8), Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax’s Chicago soundtrack (#9) and Arista’s Avril Lavigne (#10) comprise the rest of the Top 10.

"Gimme morah Norah," says Suarez. "The album continues to sell impressively since she won all those awards."

Other chart debuts were registered by Razor & Tie’s Kidz Bop Vol. 3, featuring covers of rock songs by various kids groups (#18), Columbia/CRG punk-rockers The Ataris (#19), Atlantic/Atl G’s veteran Jamaican dancehall star Wayne Wonder (#27) and Hootie and the Blowfish (#39), Verity gospel artist Donnie McClurkin (#42) and Universal rapper Choppa (#46).

Among the week’s big movers is 143/Reprise’s unstoppable boy crooner Josh Groban, up a humongous 116%. Double-digit increases were also registered by Epic’s Good Charlotte (#21, +15%), Epic’s Jennifer Lopez (#25, +11%), Epic/Interscope’s Audioslave (#26, +15%) and Jive’s Justin Timberlake (#31, +12%).

AN ASTRONOMICAL
HITS LIST
Things are looking up. (5/13a)
IS WEATHERLY RETURNING TO KROQ?
Bingenheimer won't be part of the deal, sources say. (5/13a)
SONG REVENUE:
SPRING FEVER
A cash clash of the titans (5/13a)
SPOTIFY WAVES THE ITALIANO FLAG
He does a touching karaoke rendition of "Volare." (5/13a)
SPIRIT OF LIFE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF (UPDATE)
Choice of lox, whitefish or baked salmon (5/13a)
SUPERSTAR RELEASES
Who's next?
MUSIC BIZ SPECIAL
It's Comic-Con for numbers geeks.
THE BIG CHEESE
Theories of evolution from 30,000 feet.
THE NEXT GIANT DEAL
A&R in overdrive.
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