The news world was saddened last week when it came through the wire that longtime television pundit Alan Colmes had died at age 66. Most famous for being one-half of early Fox News hit Hannity and Colmes, the newsman was a frequent left-leaning voice in conservative circles, author and host, but what’s gone unfortunately under-eulogized about the man is his significant contribution to hip-hop. No, that’s not a typo and no, there’s no secret underground chopped-and-screwed mixtape of his Thank the Liberals audiobook. If you’re a diehard hip-hop head, you might not even know that you have an Alan Colmes track in your collection.
Are you sitting down?
On Public Enemy’s classic 1990 Fear of a Black Planet album, that’s Alan Colmes on the track “Incident at 66.6 FM.”
As Chuck D told Billboard “’Incident At 66.6 FM’ was actually a live radio interview that I did at WNBC in New York before a show we did with Run-DMC at Nassau Coliseum. Those people you hear in the record actually called the station. One person called and said, “I don’t believe these guys you have on your show. I seen them with the Beastie Boys, a couple of people were wearing their shirts and I think they’re scum.’ Another person called up and said, “Yeah, PE in full effect.’ All that was real. Another person called up and said, “Why they hell do you have these monkeys on?’ Another person called up, “Terminator X.’ So it was people rooting for us and people routing against us.”
When Colmes got wind of his voice being sampled without his permission, he actually tried to get the station to sue. Unfortunately, being they owned the rights to the recording and had no interest in taking legal action against Public Enemy, Colmes’ desire for legal retaliation wasn’t pursued.
While there was a certain tension for most of the ’90s between Colmes and his Public Enemy past, according to legend the hatchet was buried once Chuck D met up with Colmes at Fox News in ’98 or so once he began appearing on air. They wound up becoming friends and, when Public Enemy recorded their New Whirl Odor album in 2004, Colmes reprised his “role” from Fear of a Black Planet for a sequel in “66.6 Strikes Again.”
When asked about his place in hip-hop history, Colmes said “Chuck D of Public Enemy took an interview we did on WNBC and sampled it, I was upset that I hadn’t been asked permission and felt I was taken out of context and made to sound smarmy. I wanted to sue but WNBC was Emmis Broadcasting and then Infinity, and they owned the material and didn’t want to proceed. Chuck and I now laugh about it. He claims he made me internationally famous.”
Chuck D remembered Colmes with his own Tribute on Twitter: