Big Punisher's 'Yeeeah Baby!' Debuts at No. 3

"Yeeeah Baby!," the album that Bronx rapper Big Punisher labored on during the final months of his life, debuts this week at No. 3 on the nation's music chart, making it the week's highest-charting new release.

The 28-year-old Big Pun, whose given name was Christopher Rios, died of heart failure on Feb. 7 in White Plains, N.Y., cutting short a career that was launched with the Grammy-nominated album "Capital Punishment" in 1998.

"Yeeeah Baby!" is the eagerly awaited follow-up effort to "Capital Punishment," which made Pun the first solo Latino rapper to score a platinum-selling album. The timing of its release, however, adds Big Pun to a growing list of rappers to debut in the Top 10 with posthumous releases, a grim tally that includes Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

With the single "It's So Hard" leading the way, "Yeeeah Baby!" sold 179,000 copies during its first week in stores, trailing only 'N Sync's "No String Attached" (533,000) and Santana's "Supernatural" (186,000).

The Top 5 was rounded out by Sisqo's "Unleash the Dragon"--which sold 149,000 copies on the week and has been powered by the ribald radio hit "Thong Song"--and the "Romeo Must Die" soundtrack, which is driven by the music of the film's co-star, Aaliyah.

Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001" holds strong at No. 6 with 110,000 sold, and is followed closely in the sales countdown by Destiny's Child and Macy Gray.

At No. 9, Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" is now approaching 6 million in total sales and has returned to the Top 10 on the radio and video airplay of "God Only Knows," adding to the retail fuel provided by the disc's earlier hits "Bawitdaba" and "Cowboy." The Detroit rap-rocker has "American Bad Ass," a collection of rarities and early tracks, due in stores on May 30.

The second-highest debut of the week belonged to rapper Rah Digga and her first album, "Dirty Harriet," which opened at No. 18 with 68,000 copies sold. Hailing from Newark, N.J., the Busta Rhymes protegee and Flipmode Squad member has won critical praise for her wit and husky-voiced delivery. The disc also features guest turns by Rhymes, Eve, Sonia Blade, the Outsidaz and Carl Thomas.

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