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Nelly Tops Chili Peppers

Music fans weren’t quite ready to vacate “Nellyville” this week, as the sophomore album from St. Louis rapper Nelly stood strong against a heady 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. The 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.

The chilis pushed Eminem ( news – web sites)’s “The Eminem Show” (Interscope/Shady) down to third place, with a sales decline of 12% to 231,000. The blockbuster hit has sold 4.1 million units to date, the biggest release of 2002.

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

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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