Ebonie & Inobe ...

"You can say it's 'Billie Holiday meets funk-jazz,'" says cocoa beauty Inobe of her musical style. "Which everybody always says, because my music has that funk edge to it."

Within a year of performing with her own band, the latest musical diva on Atlanta's "neo-soul" scene has already appeared on "Good Day Atlanta" and played the V103 stage at Music Midtown. But instead of waiting on a major label to scoop her up, she and manager Marcus Xavier decided to go the independent route for her debut album, I Am Inobe, now in stores.

The St. Petersburg, Fla., native got her start in her grandfather's church, where she wrote her first song. Later, she headed to Atlanta because "at the time, LaFace was here [and] So So Def .... it just seemed like it was blossoming as far as the music industry [went], and it wasn't far from home." Her stage name doesn't stray far either. "It's my name backward," she explains. "My [real] name's Ebonie, and it's like you guys are seeing a reflection of who I am."

These days, Inobe says that her "relationship with the Lord has grown so much" that her sound has taken a new direction, into what she calls "spiritual soul." As for singers she admires, she cites Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan. "I love the emotion that they have when they sing. I can relate to that," she says, "because I'm an emotional singer."

Inobe performs at the Cotton Club, Thurs., July 10. Call for ticket price.