Why Keith Rules

Big Thomas McCree

When San Francisco drummer Big Thomas McCree wanted to get with a professional outfit on the ground floor, he found the answer in Prototype, the stylish hip-hop group founded by Keith Harris.

“I been checking him out for a minute,” McCree says, referring to Harris in his earliest days with The Black Eyed Peas. “I seen him live, on MTV, on YouTube, so I knew he could play. He was just a real solid player.” McCree, who has also drummed for Lyrics Born, got the Prototype gig when the band’s manager contacted him. After a brief audition (with a stone-faced Harris adding to McCree’s anxiety), he was elated to be invited into the band.

Obviously, the newbie had the chops for the job, but McCree thought he could learn from Harris’ broader perspective. “He was saying that, as the drummer, I was the driver of the band. If I get louder, they get loud. If I slow down, they’re going to slow down. So learning that really helped me.”

More than respecting Harris as a drummer or the Peas’ fame or even Harris’ amiable personality, there was an X factor about Prototype that deeply appealed to McCree. “Keith inspires me as a producer, it’s not all just how many licks he has or whatever. He just looks like he’s having the best time, and that’s important, because when you play the drums you want to have fun.” Or just be plain silly, as the case may be. “There’s also his stick tricks,” McCree adds. “I do some of those myself so I was always checking out Keith to see his.” Although he came into Protoype with considerable skills, McCree still looks forward to fielding tips from Harris down the line. “We haven’t had that much time to talk about actual technique, so if he says it’s good, it’s good. But I’m sure he’ll have some advice on technique at some point.”