This week’s Billboard album chart featured two unusual contenders for the top spot: a pair of independent rappers, each heavily influenced by their Christian faith, who did well on streaming services but also moved thousands of albums by bundling them with deals for merchandise, concert tickets and even Lyft rides.
In the end, the victor was an upset: NF, a rapper from Michigan, edged out Chance the Rapper, from Chicago, who was releasing what he called his first official album after years of success with streaming-only mixtapes.
NF’s album, “The Search,” opened at No. 1 with the equivalent of 130,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen, giving NF — whose real name is Nathan Feuerstein — his second time at the top of the chart. Chance the Rapper’s “The Big Day” came in second place with 108,000.
Within those “equivalent” numbers — umbrella totals that reconcile the weekly numbers from various music formats — Chance had by far the bigger streaming number. Songs from “The Big Day” were streamed 104 million times, more than any other album last week; “The Search” had just 58 million.
The winner was determined by album sales, and there NF had the advantage, moving 84,000 copies. “The Search” performed well at the iTunes Store, according to Billboard. But the album was also helped by deals that included copies of it when fans bought other items, from concert tickets to $15 baseball caps.
Chance had plenty of merchandise bundles too, and also gave copies of “The Big Day” to both drivers and passengers of the ride-hailing app Lyft. But Chance’s album total ended up at only 27,000.
Also this week, Ed Sheeran’s “No.6 Collaborations Project” fell to No. 3 after two weeks at the top; Billie Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” is No. 4; and Chris Brown’s “Indigo” is No. 5.
On the singles chart, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” holds at No. 1, extending its historic chart run to 18 weeks at the top — two weeks longer than any other song in the 61-year history of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He joined The Times in 1998, and has contributed to Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Press and WFUV. He also wrote “Doolittle,” a book about the Pixies. @sisario
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