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Northern Alumnus Brenda “G Precious” Atencio wins Native American Music Award

“Unforgettable,” featuring Grammy Award Winner Macy Gray, named “Best Song of the Year”

It sounds like a plot from a Hollywood movie: a chance conversation opens the door for a hip-hop/R & B artist from Ohkay Owingeh to write lyrics and record a song with Grammy Award Winner Macy Gray. But that is what happened to Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) alumnus Brenda “G Precious” Atencio. That recording, “Unforgettable,” won the Native American Music Awards 2022 “Best Song of the Year.”

“During covid, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time in the right conversation with the right producer,” G Precious said. “And that’s truly how that song came about.”

During that conversation, G Precious learned that the producer had the instrumental for a song for a well-known artist and was looking for someone to write additional lyrics. She asked for the opportunity to show him what she could do. She received the instrumental and an idea of what the storyline should be and immediately went to work. When the producer received her draft recording, he said, “This is really going to work.”

She was shocked to recognize Macy Gray’s voice on the rough cut the producer sent back. In the final cut, Macy Gray and G Precious alternate verses, joining together on the chorus. Due to covid, the artists recorded their cuts separately, which were then mixed in studio.

G Precious began writing poetry at six years old and was putting music to her lyrics by the time she was 12 or 13. She recorded her first album in her late teens, but was so unsure of what path she wanted to take musically, she decided not to release it. But there was no ambiguity about her debut album, “On My Shoulders,” which she produced independently.

“I loved everything on it,” G Precious said. “It truly spoke to everything that was happening in my life at that time. I had lost several of my aunts. I had lost my grandmother. I lost my older brother during the time I was recording. I had so many emotions, so much trauma, so many things boiling up for me and when I started recording that album it was like everything I was feeling and dealing with was just coming to the surface, and that was the album that I chose to put out to the world.”

She was amazed by the reception that album received: radio stations wanting to air it, people stopping her to share how one of the songs had affected them. It earned her first nomination for a Native American Music Award. “That album took off on its own,” she said. “It’s like I gave it life and the wind just picked it up and took it for me.”

Since then, G Precious has released “Hip Hop & Hotdogs Vol. 1,” “Abomination,” “Walk On Water – Evolution,” "ECLECTIC," "The Forgotten," “LIFE” and her traditional CD "Bow & Arrow Songs of Ohkay Owingeh." She has been nominated for the Indian Summer Music Awards (2016, 2017) and won the New Mexico Music Awards in multiple categories, including Hip Hop, Pop and Native Music, from 2017 – 2021.

G Precious’ music looks unflinchingly into painful experiences, asks probing questions about life and relationships, but also exhibits her strength of spirit and determination to rise above her pain and thrive – and to inspire others to do the same.  “I always say, my music is moving. I’m just along with it for the ride. I’ve been a cool passenger.”

Her music pushes at the boundaries of hip-hop/Pop and R & B. She said, “Don’t put me in a box, because I’m going to write a country song.”

G Precious has a lifelong commitment to education, instilled in her by the grandmother who raised her. Her mother was absent, so G Precious learned at a young age how to register herself and take all the other steps necessary to put herself through elementary, high school, college and graduate school. She sees this as important to her own well-being, but also as a role model for her younger siblings.

“I was the first of my family to go to college, the first to graduate with an associate’s, a bachelor’s, a master’s,” G Precious said. “I was the first to change the dynamic of my family. I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be a repeater of that cycle. I always wanted to break that. I always wanted better for myself. To this day, I use every opportunity, every experience as a learning tool. I truly never stop learning. For me, any opportunity I have to learn, I take it. I grasp it.”

G Precious’ degrees are surprising for someone with a music career: Associate of Art and bachelor’s degrees in business administration from NNMC and a Master of Legal Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Her early ambitions included being a lawyer, a business manager and CEO. He degrees have practical implications for her chosen career.

“I’ve always wanted to be in business for myself, so that’s how I ended up in business management courses.” G Precious said. “And being a hip-hop/pop/R & B artist, I felt it was important to know legal aspects, because we deal a lot in things like contracts and percentages of royalties. I have to understand the documents I’m signing and agreeing to.

“Nobody is going to take better care of me and my music than what I can do for myself. It was important to me to learn as many aspects of the industry as I could and to make sure that I’ve got some of the tools necessary.” She also shares those skills with other recording artists, sharing her knowledge so they can avoid getting the raw end of a deal.

G Precious' goals for the future include winning a Grammy, BET and People’s Choice Awards. She hopes to someday perform “Unforgettable” live with Macy Gray and perhaps record a music video of the song. And, of course, there is always that country music song waiting in the wings. To learn more about G Precious or hears some of her music, go to https://www.therealgprecious.com/.

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