Engineer Anthony ‘Breakitdwn’ Cruz Explains Why Meek Mill’s ‘Expensive Pain’ Album Hits
Behind The Boards
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Originally a producer, Anthony “Breakitdwn” Cruz did some research and decided he wanted to engineer, like Jimmy Iovine and Young Guru. After moving from Atlanta to Orlando to attend Full Sail University, Cruz graduated in 2010. Within 6 months, worked double duty as a Roc The Mic Studios intern and in audio/visual at the 40/40 Club, in New York City. Becoming Meek Mill’s engineer in 2013, the two have been inseparable since with Cruz playing a jack of all trades role on Meek’s 2021 album, Expensive Pain. Now, immortalized in Meek’s “Turn me up, Cruz!” ad-lib and leading his Breakitdwn music foundation, Anthony Cruz’s legacy is rock-solid.
When did you feel like you truly arrived as an engineer?
I’m in the studio with [Young] Guru, Jay Electronica and Erykah Badu are there, and Jay is recording that “Modern Warfare” record that he did with Prodigy, rest in peace. Guru ends up falling asleep. Jay is like “Yo, do you engineer?” I jump in the mix, and put my touches; they absolutely loved it. It was that moment of being able to hold down my brother Guru and have Jay Electronica trust me to piece together his work, for the fans to receive it that night.
How did you start working with Meek Mill?
Meek comes to Roc The Mic one day [in] June 2013; I’m actually at the 10-year anniversary party at 40/40, so I’m manning that. I get the call that Meek needs an engineer, drop everything, go to the studio. I run to Roc The Mic, its [Meek’s] entourage, grimy Philly dudes, and everybody’s looking at me crazy. I get on. He’s very particular about how his voice sounds on record. He was a cool dude, and three weeks in, we had that feeling of, we need to figure this out. We did DC3 in this time, and I held him to his word. Nine years later, here we are, still locked in.
Was it difficult to complete Expensive Pain in a pandemic?
Definitely, that whole process was unlike anything we’ve ever had to deal with. The NBA shut down while we were in The Bahamas. We thought we were gonna be stranded. We had a different album month after month because of all of the trials and tribulations. That’s the whole thing of Expensive Pain. There’s amazing moments like “Sharing Locations” and “Blue Notes 2,” but then there’s “On My Soul,” “Love Train” that really speak to what Meek had been going through. I think people experienced a lot of pain. I think that’s why it touched people.
Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2021 issue including our cover story featuring the XXL awards board members, Juice Wrld's mother reflects on her son, Big30 gears up for his debut album, a look back at the history of remixing hip-hop songs, Latin trap star Eladio Carrion talks about working with Bobby Shmurda, Tobe Nwigwe's viral movement with a purpose, KenTheMan gets cosigns from 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg, 10 moments rappers lost valuable possessions and more.