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Early Eminem nabs lead

'P.Diddy' slips to second place

Despite rampant online piracy and an ever-changing release date, the long-anticipated new disc from controversial rapper Eminem still managed to grab the No. 1 spot after just a couple of days in the running.

“The Eminem Show” (Interscope) has scanned nearly 285,000 copies since it was released over the Memorial Day weekend, according to data compiled by SoundScan. Typically, records are released on Tuesdays and enter the charts after six days of sales.

Eminem’s release date was moved ahead several days to take advantage of the historically high sales rates over the holiday period. But the actual street date was nebulous: While the official date was Sunday, many retailers apparently began sending the record out the door as early as Friday.

This isn’t the first time the date had been pushed up: Interscope had already advanced the release by several weeks after discovering the album was trading like wildfire in cyberspace.

If sales of “the Eminem Show” are any indicator of how the album will trend next week, record could end up with sales of more than 1 million copies by the end of its first full week. This week’s figure may have been skewed, however, by the strength of the holiday shopping period.

And even the combined numbers aren’t likely to reach those of Em’s last record, 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” which sold a record-breaking 1.8 million units out of the gate.

Hip-hop rivals suffer

“The Eminem Show” knocked another hip-hop bad boy, Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, down to second place. Sales of “P.Diddy and the Bad Boy Family Present: We Invented the Remix” (Bad Boy/Arista) slipped by 44% to 144,000 discs.

Slim Shady also overshadowed a more conventional bow from Latin music mainstay Marc Anthony. The New York native’s seventh studio effort “Mended” (Columbia) opened in third place, selling more than 111,000 copies.

Further down the rankings, Blink 182 front man Tom DeLonge’s side project Boxcar Racer debuted at 12 with its self-titled MCA album, selling 65,000 copies. And “Off the Hook” (Columbia), a hip-hop-flavored spinoff of the wildly popular “Now” compilation series, opened at 13, also with 65,000 units sold.

Christian fare beats metal

Bowing at 21 was the latest from bestselling Christian songstress Amy Grant. “Legacy … Hymns & Faith” (A&M) sold 47,000 units out of the gate. At the other end of the spectrum was ex-Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee with his solo effort “Never a Dull Moment” (MCA) at 39, selling 29,000 discs.

Several country acts got a boost after cleaning up at the Academy of Country Music Awards last week. Climbing eight places to 18 was “Drive” (Arista) from Alan Jackson, who took home three awards, including Top Male Artist.

Among the other winners to gain ground were Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, and the soundtrack to the Coen brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” pic.