Disc stays at No. 1; Chilis find 'Way' to 2nd spot

Music fans weren’t quite ready to vacate “Nellyville” this week, as St. Louis rapper Nelly’s sophomore LP beat off a strong debut from funk-punk foursome the Red Hot Chili Peppers and held on to the top spot for the third week running.

Sales of “Nellyville” (Universal) slipped 24% to 340,000 units, according to data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan, but the album still managed to top 1.5 million in total sales after less than a month out. Fresh off that success, the hip-hop star is said to be planning a move into the TV world, starring in his own series for Paramount Network Television.

“By the Way,” (Warner Bros.), the latest effort from the Chilis, dropped in at No. 2 with sales totaling just under 282,000 discs. Album got a hearty promotional push from radio and MTV2, where the title track is racking up many spins as well as online promos on high-traffic outlets like AOL Music.

RHCP pushed Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” (Interscope/Shady) down to third place, with a sales decline of 12% to 231,000. The blockbuster hit still managed to cross into quadruple-platinum territory in a mere two months, selling 4.1 million units to date.

One spot further down in fourth were the Counting Crows with their latest Geffen Records release “Hard Candy.” The melancholy-rock sextet, who will set out on a European tour in August, managed to send more than 138,000 copies out the door in their debut session.

Also bowing high in the rankings this week were “A Gangster & A Gentleman” (Interscope/Ruff Ryder) from Queens-born hardcore rapper Styles at No. 6, and “Grit & Grind” (Jive) from Bay-area hip-hopper Earl “E-40″ Stevens, at 13.

Nelly’s chances for a four-peat at No. 1 next week are looking exceedingly slim: “Busted Stuff” (RCA), the latest from the Dave Matthews Band, appears to be a virtual lock on the top spot. Fans even got a jump on DMB mania during this week’s sales period, bidding the group’s prior release, “Everyday,” up 16 places to 120, boosting sales by 13%.

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