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Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is beating the skins all over the big screen.

The veteran percussionist did the soundtrack to late rapper Tupac Shakur's last movie, "Gang Related," which opens Wednesday.

Director Jim Kouf wanted a powerful, driving background force.

"Who better than the guy who'd created the album 'Planet Drum'?" Kouf said of Hart and his symphonic-sounding, all-drum recording released in the early 1990s.

Since the Grateful Dead disbanded after guitarist Jerry Garcia's death, Hart has toured with his own band and released a solo album. Previous soundtracks included the opening theme of the 1996 Olympics, a PBS series on philosopher Joseph Campbell and the movie "Apocalypse Now."

Getting in synch musically with the dramatic tone of the gritty crime drama took a little time, Hart said.

"Everything had a groove in this movie," Hart told the Associated Press. "It had a certain overall rhythm to it and I let it sink in for a while. . . . And then I took a swat at it."

He never got to meet Shakur, who was shot to death in Las Vegas last year.

"I thought he was a great artist," Hart said. "He was certainly not only a product, but also a prophet, of his generation and his environment. And he was just starting to stretch out."

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