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February 24, 2007|CHRIS LEE

Turning the spotlight on musicians making a commercial breakthrough.

"Neighborhood Rapstar"


Tommy Boy Records

Artist info: Don't confuse 2XL's rappers, the 16-year-old twins Justin and Bennett Talmadge, with the other 2XL: a talking robot educational toy from the late '70s. The newer version is quickly becoming a breakout suburban rap act -- the first North Hollywood natives to release a CD on Tommy Boy, the label home to seminal '80s and '90s hip-hop acts including De La Soul, House of Pain and Queen Latifah. Although "Neighborhood Rapstar" hit record stores only on Tuesday, 2XL's current single, "Magic City" (featuring Unk and Candy Hill), has been getting urban radio airplay and building commercial momentum.

Back story: The brothers Talmadge (who go by rap aliases Royal for Justin and Craze for Bennett) discovered their love of music at 10, when most boys are still playing with G.I. Joes. But after being expelled from school, stretched financially thin (courtesy of an absentee father) and struggling with their mother's repeated bouts with brain cancer, the young rappers deferred their dreams of rocking the mike. That is, until mom decided to skip paying the electric bills to buy them recording equipment. From there, 2XL became a darling of the underground mix-tape circuit and built a considerable presence on Offers from independent labels started coming. And in the span of two years -- all before they were old enough to drive -- the duo went from being a hyped unsigned act to recording on Tommy Boy with hit-making producers du jour Scott Storch, French and J-Classic.

Influences: Al Green, Ying Yang Twins, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G.

Trivia: In 2004, one of their first songs, "Like That," was on the "Barbershop2" soundtrack.

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