When it comes to Real Housewives of Potomac star Candiace Dilliard, you either love her or you hate her. (We happen to love her.) But one thing you will not do is underestimate her. The breakout star of the franchise just released her newest single called “Benefits (Pt. II)” [feat. Q Parker], and needless to say, it's a certified banger. Check it out below.

Exploring themes of sexuality, friends with benefits, and managing expectations — all while delivering sultry vocals over a smooth beat — "Benefits (Pt. II)" is a worthy entry into the R&B pantheon. Candiace built widespread hype with her debut album, Deep Space. Right out of the gate, it opened with more than half a million streams in its first week. It also notably became one of the Top 25 R&B albums in the country, reaching #24 on the Billboard Current R&B album chart. In addition to success on the charts, the record earned praise from R&B superstars Anita Baker and Toni Braxton.

We recently spoke to Candiace about her new single, and we got into the nitty-gritty of her RHOP persona, her career in the industry, and what's next for her. 

So, first of all, I am a HUGE fan of you on RHOP. I love the fact that you're not afraid to call out nonsense, even if it's from Andy Cohen. Tell me: how did you get so fearless? Where did it come from? And what advice would you give the more timid amongst us who are sometimes afraid to stand up for ourselves?

I wish sometimes that I was less outspoken because of how often it can ruffle certain feathers, but then I remember that I am only responsible for my opinion of myself. I have a hard time leaving room for ambiguity with people who think they know who I am. I'm working on that. Maybe we call it fearlessness, or maybe we can call it something else. However you name it, I don't ever want to walk away from any situation with regret. I want to know that I was completely open and honest with my thoughts and my feelings. There's a duality to that philosophy, though. Because in reality, I would never befriend people who create contention to gaslight me for their own storylines. 

So this makes my philosophy a bit more complicated in a reality television space. In the most important parts of my life, though, outside of reality television, my “Say What You Need to Say" (thanks John Mayer) mantra has always served me well and created a space where I always feel secure in where I am in all of my relationships. To my timid sistren and brethren: know that I was you at one point in my life and I hated the way that I felt every time I let my thoughts and feelings fall to the wayside to accommodate someone else. I felt robbed of validation; not from others but from myself for not having enough respect for me to speak up for me. You owe yourself that respect. You have to see yourself, OWN yourself, uplift yourself before anyone else will think to do it. Always champion you.

Now, let's get into the music. I love the fact that "Benefits Pt. II" addresses the physical needs in a relationship, and doesn't make women feel guilty for just pursuing a relationship for the sex. I also love how you and Q play off one another. What inspired you to write this song?

I love the "Benefits" series because while it could be about the physicality in a relationship, it actually speaks to something much deeper than that. I wrote, "Benefits" and "Benefits Pt. II" with Nyerere Davidson to highlight not only the physical (sexual) but the emotional benefits one can take advantage of in a relationship. Many of us have been in or had that girlfriend that was in some mess with a guy who couldn’t commit past the surface and became fed up with not receiving a full commitment with vulnerabilities, transparencies, and real communication. Benefits explore all of that and more. I’ve had many listeners tell me the songs are triggering because they remind them of how undervalued they were in unfulfilling relationships. It makes me feel good knowing I’m making music that people can really relate to but I feel bad for giving y’all PTSD! Let these fools know…they “can be dismissed.”

You have quite the career in R&B - some bona fide legends have given you props for your work. Tell me: what's it like getting that type of recognition? Who inspires you in the industry today?

My musical journey is incredibly personal. It’s why my debut album is so aptly titled “DEEP SPACE” because this zone is very intimate and special to me. To have artists I have been inspired by, studied, and learned from meet me in my Deep Space and SEE me is incomprehensible. Some of my favorite artists who have always inspired me are Anita Baker, Nina Simone, Toni Braxton, and Brandy to name a few. Contralto voices are not always celebrated the same way Soprano voices are and these vocalists made me feel seen and gave me the confidence to explore my lower register and be proud of it.

Tell us a little bit about your career. Certainly, it took a "non-traditional" path, to say the least. Did you plan it out this way? Would you have done anything differently if given the chance?

I came out of the womb singing. My father was the drum major in his marching band at Troy State University and introduced me to music very early. I spent my adolescent years competing in talent shows and singing in my church choir. I always knew that music would be a huge part of my life, I just had no idea how. I remember when I was 15, I thought I was going to get my “break” when I joined a girl group called Blazzzin’. I remember spending hours with my group members rehearsing, writing, and recording music just KNOWING we were destined for greatness. We were in talks to sign to a major label when my parents decided that it would be best to pull me out of the group because of a bad contract. Obviously, when you’re 15 and eating, sleeping, and breathing music, this is devastating news and I was really angry with my parents for a minute. 

It wasn’t until I found out a few months later that my other group members were trying to get out of their contracts because of the bad deal that I realized that my parents were only looking out for my best interest. I still felt like my dream had slipped away from me, though, and wasn’t sure how or when else I might have an opportunity like that one. My path into the music industry has definitely been a bit nontraditional. Although I have always existed around the music industry, I feel like the fact that I have come from the reality television space, I have a lot more to prove. I’m up for that challenge. I am fully embracing being a freshman in the industry and watching and learning and being present through every moment. I wouldn’t have done anything differently, though. I feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be!

Finally, what's next for you, specifically in the music industry? Any exclusive collaborations you'd like to share?

I’m really proud of what my team and I have been able to accomplish thus far but I’m super excited for what is to come! I’m obsessed with Christmas and have always wanted to do a full-length Christmas album complete with covers and original songs but we didn’t have time to get it done while also promoting "Deep Space." So I had to pivot to a Christmas single which I’m happy to bring to all of my fellow Christmas music lovers. Entitled “Heartbreak on Christmas,” this isn’t your typical holiday record because I’m singing about heartbreak…BUT it’s not all sad. The premise of the message is uplifting and it’s catchy. I hope it makes it into my listeners’ holiday repertoire year after year. 

I am also releasing the next single from Deep Space, “Is it Enough?” complete with an incredibly dope visual. This was my most intricate visual to date, with five wardrobe changes, background dancers, some super cool hair and make-up choices, and a sensual, chocolate girl vibe that screams Black Girl Magic. My visual team killed, Mignotae and Mansa, and they really understood the vision. I am also working on a collab with an amazing gospel artist for the following single, dropping sometime early next year. Finally, I am working with my team to start my first tour next year! Touring can be a huge undertaking and I’m terrified, but also really excited and ready to tackle this next adventure. The Queen Auntie Legend Anita Baker gave me some great advice and encouragement regarding touring and lit a new fire under me, so I’m ready!