J. Cole's third studio album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, tops the Billboard 200 chart, selling 353,538 copies in its first week and knocking Taylor Swift's 1989 out of the top stop. His final tally rises to 371,228 thanks to Billboard's new initiative to include streaming services into the mix. Cole's album also sets the highest mark for Spotify streams in a first week, with 15.7 million recorded.
Cole's success is especially sweet given his unorthodox rollout for 2014 Forest Hills Drive. He initially announced the project three weeks before it would be released, sharing no singles to radio. His first live television performance took place a day after the album dropped, and Cole chose to perform a new version of "Be Free" rather than a song off the project.
This marks Cole's third consecutive album to reach No. 1, with his 2011 release, Cole World: The Sideline Story, debuting at the top of the charts with 218,000 copies sold. His sophomore album, Born Sinner, debuted last year in the No. 2 spot behind Kanye West's Yeezus with 297,000 copies sold. It would later reach No. 1 in its third week.
Prior to Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive being released, Rick Ross held the crown in 2014 for highest first week sales for a hip-hop act with Mastermind, which sold 179,000 copies. Cole's sales clearly dwarf that number, and with the year nearly over, only Nicki Minaj could come close to knocking off Cole with her third studio album, The Pinkprint.
Throughout this past month, J. Cole has adamantly distanced himself from the eventual tally of his first week sales for 2014 Forest Hills Drive, opting to put the focus on the quality of his music and his connection with fans rather than a number. Still, Cole did have one response following his latest achievement:
The real is back— J. Cole (@JColeNC) December 16, 2014
J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive is available for purchase on iTunes.