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The work doesn't ever stop for B.Well

B. Well performs with his guitar player in Iowa Public Radio's Cedar Falls studio.
Lucius Pham
IPR Studio One
B. Well's new album "Elegance" debuts next month.

The Des Moines rapper B.Well is getting ready to close out a busy year with a new record.

Serious Music People in Iowa aren’t the only folx who’ve taken notice of B.Well, the rapper and songwriter from Des Moines. Earlier this year, B.Well and his fellow musicians were returning from the Dominican Republic, when he received an email telling him the Des Moines Business Record had chosen him for their annual “40 Under 40” list.

“We went to the Dominican Republic in January, just to get out of the snow and work on some music,” said B.Well. When we touched down in Atlanta from the Dominican Republic, that was the voicemail on my phone. It was a cool way to get welcomed back to the States.”

B.Well had been nominated by his friend Renee Hardman, whom he’d met during the racial justice protests of 2020. The voicemail in which he was informed he’d made the list is sampled on the song “Hi,” which appears on B.Well’s upcoming new album Elegance.

“None of us do the things we do for lists or accolades, so it was a very kind gesture on (Renee’s) part,“ said B.Well. “I think certain people have to see you or perceive you in a certain way, to be validated in their mind. I don’t think it’s necessary for anybody I’m on a team with, but if that’s what helps us continue to climb levels, I’m okay with it.”

B.Well received another honor in July, performing on the main stage at the 80/35 festival in Des Moines, which was held for the first time since 2019. It wasn’t B.Well’s first time performing at 80/35, and he greatly enjoyed the opportunity, which isn’t given to many Iowa musicians

“I think in 2018, we were at one of the side stages. I remember that very fondly, and it was very well received,” said B.Well. “Making the main stage was a very rewarding experience. The Des Moines Music Coalition does a great job of putting on that event. It’s a well-oiled machine. It was cool, especially the first year after COVID put them on hiatus.”

New album Elegance debuts next month

Now, B.Well is set to cap off a busy and successful year with the release of his latest album, Elegance. It’s the natural follow-up to last year’s “Billy,” which saw B.Well getting more personal in his lyrics, and finding his own sound and voice, as opposed to his earlier music, which was more explicitly influenced by West Coast hip-hop.

“It took me a long time to explore, and find a sound I was comfortable with, and wanted to share, and wanted to be ‘trademarked’ as my own,” said B.Well. “This is a culmination of my ‘greatest hits’ that I’ve made. I stacked up 70-80 songs, and picked my 13 ‘favorites.’ They’re the ones I’m most proud of, and that I thought were the most cohesive.”

Although the album doesn’t come out until November, B.Well has already held a 3-day album release event in Des Moines. For the event, he was inspired by the late Nipsey Hussle’s album release for “Victory Lap,” which took place over NBA All-Star Weekend 2018. In the same manner, B.Well held a video premiere on a Thursday night, a merchandise release event on a Friday at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, and the album release show at Wooly’s on Saturday, October 1st.

“Previously, I’d just done album release shows, where the album came out the day of, or a week prior. I wanted to try something, where you tease ‘em, get ‘em hyped up, and then take it away from ‘em,” he said with a laugh. “This is the proudest I’ve ever been of a piece of work. I want to make sure it catches legs, and that I’ve maximized it to its full potential before moving on to something else.”

One of B.Well’s most popular songs is “Mine” from the album “Billy,” featuring fellow Des Moines singer Annie Kemble, who B.Well describes as “my good friend, very talented vocalist and human.” Kemble appears on two songs on Elegance.

“I remember the first time hearing her sing, I was like ‘I hope I can work with you forever.’” said B.Well. “I was lucky enough to get her to participate, and she wrote two beautiful hooks for ‘Slightly Broken Hearted’ and ‘Last Call’ which I feel like are massive songs. ‘Last Call’ was probably the first song we made off of ‘Elegance.’ I knew it was a special song. It has more pop elements, as opposed to hip-hop. Her talent is worldly.”

“She was just the piece needed,” said B.Well. “I have a feeling the two songs she’s on will catch their own legs. People have an appreciation for her talent.”

And if there’s one other thing about B.Well you can count on, aside from his distinctive, innovative music and tireless work ethic, it’s that he will always look good.

“I try to pay attention to a lot of the details that go along with music. Stage presence, the way you’re speaking in between songs, the stage aesthetic, marketing and lead up to the show - all of that is extremely important to me,” said B.Well. “My father is a very dapper individual, and he won’t leave the house unless everything is matching from head to toe. That’s kind of where I learned a lot of my fashion from... If you look good, you feel good.”

Elegance is scheduled to be released on November 11th, and the rest of B.Well’s music is available on Bandcampand other streaming platforms.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host