J. Cole’s third studio album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with more than 375,000 equivalent units sold, easily making it the most commercially successful hip hop release of the year.

The album’s first week totals are from the week ending on Dec. 14 and includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales, a change that  Billboard  implemented last month for its Billboard 200 rankings. However, if we’re just looking at pure album sales, “2014 Forest Hills Drive” moved more than 354,000 copies, which still exceeded projections and outperformed the year’s previous best hip hop debut, Rick Ross’ “Mastermind,” by a comfortable margin.

The latest tally is the best debut of Cole’s career, besting his first album, “Cole World – The Sideline Story” (212,000 units sold), and his sophomore follow up, “Born Sinner” (297,000). The achievement is even more impressive considering Cole announced the album just a month before its release with no singles to generate a buzz. Instead, he relied on the strength of his fan base to create momentum for the album’s release and opted to connect with them on a personal level, including hosting a listening party at his childhood home and popping up in different cities to chop it up with his supporters.

It was a risky maneuver in this time of meager album sales, but the gamble paid off.  He took to Twitter to express his feelings on the achievement:

Jay Z also shouted out Cole with a post on his website that simply read, “New rules, new results.”

The biggest challenger to the Roc Nation MC’s No. 1 spot will come from Nicki Minaj’s recently released album, “The Pinkprint,” which is projected to sell in the range of 155,000 to 165,000 copies, according Hits Daily Double. But as we’ve just seen, projections aren’t always spot on. We’ll see what happens.

What did you think about “2014 Forest Hills Drive?” How would you rank it against Cole’s other albums? Let us know in the comment section.