Renowned for its vibrant music scene, you’d think hip-hop events in Austin would be as common as cowboy boots and live music venues.
However, until recently, there was a notable scarcity of hip-hop shows in the Live Music Capital of the World. That’s where Jamal McKinney, the dynamic owner of ill Manner Shows, comes into the picture, partnering with the legendary Antone’s Nightclub to transform the music landscape of Austin.
Jamal, a multifaceted creative force, didn’t start his journey in the music industry. Born in Germany, Jamal found his way to Austin in 2008 with a basketball scholarship to Huston-Tillotson University. A love for music always coursed through his veins, and even during his time as an all-around athlete, he dabbled in music by playing in the school band. Fast forward to the present, and Jamal has grown into a music producer, event curator, and entrepreneur, bringing the magic of hip-hop to Austin’s stages.
McKinney’s journey into the industry took root in 2007 when his cousin introduced him to music production software, Fruity Loops. However, he took a brief detour when he received that basketball scholarship. His passion for music didn’t fade, though, and he soon found an outlet for it. A college roommate introduced him to the promotional side of the music world, where they partnered with entities like Scoremore, posted online, and distributed flyers on the streets.
Their reputation for hosting epic house parties led Jamal to believe that music and event production could become more than just a side gig. He realized that by creating his own shows, he could foster connections with artists on a deeper level, build rapport, and simultaneously provide his musician friends with exposure. Jamal’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive led him to establish ill Manner Shows, marking the next phase of his remarkable journey.
Over the past 14 years, Jamal has crafted a stunning career in the music industry, boasting highlights like producing music for artists such as BigXThaPlug, KenTheMan, and Young Roddy, curating events for SXSW, BackWoods, and Tito’s Vodka, and even producing halftime shows for the Austin Spurs NBA Development team.
However, what distinguishes Jamal McKinney’s journey is his transformative partnership with Antone’s Nightclub. This iconic venue, known for its legendary status in the blues and rock scene, opened its doors to hip-hop under Jamal’s curation. Zach Ernst, Antone’s Talent Buyer, lauds Jamal’s contribution to the club, stating, “Jamal has proven to be an invaluable resource in terms of selecting quality openers as well as bringing a crowd to Antone’s.”
The collaboration came to fruition thanks to a mutual friend who recognized Jamal’s potential and introduced him to Antone’s. Jamal’s fresh perspective, professionalism, and proven track record quickly won the club over. The trust forged between McKinney and Antone’s served as the foundation for a successful partnership that’s beginning to redefine the music landscape of Austin.
I take immense pride in every show, connecting with artists I grew up listening to or currently enjoy
Jamal highlights some of the favorite shows he’s brought to Antone’s, including Paul Wall, Freeway, and Boldy James. “The Paul Wall show, in particular, was a dream come true for me. I had been a fan of his since I was 13.” He adds, “It’s not just about bringing artists I admire; I take immense pride in every show, connecting with artists I grew up listening to or currently enjoy.” It’s apparent that his energy and connection with fans at these events resonate deeply with him.
What sets Antone’s apart, according to Jamal, is the unparalleled support and sense of family. Jamal mentions that Austin can be a tough city for hip-hop shows, and many venues don’t prioritize providing a welcoming space for Black creators. Antone’s is an exception to this trend, where music transcends color and genre and diversity and open-mindedness are the keys to success.
Antone’s extends its commitment to the community by branching out into comedy shows and working with local creatives like Kydd Jones and Confucius Jones. This diversification was initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the cabaret-style seating model at Antone’s was ideal for hosting comedy events. The club’s willingness to explore and embrace various forms of live entertainment showcases their dedication to Austin’s rich cultural landscape.
When asked about the future of the venues, Zach envisions Antone’s continuing to grow over the years, attracting big-name acts, and further establishing its presence in the music and media scene., “As we approach our 50th year in business, we aim to honor our history and legacy while embracing the next generation of talent.”
In the heart of Austin, Jamal McKinney and Antone’s Nightclub are rewriting the music scene’s narrative, emphasizing diversity, inclusivity, and a genuine love for music. Together, they’ve proven that with passion, dedication, and a strong partnership, hip-hop can indeed find a home in the Live Music Capital of the World.
Antone’s upcoming events, in collaboration with ill Manner Productions, include shows by Kool Keith and Maxo Kream (Halloween), ensuring that the club remains at the forefront of Austin’s dynamic music scene.