During the same period, Healey began releasing more and more records on Back Ta Basics. “As we were touring and playing, I saw all these great bands that were either just coming up or weren’t getting recognition, so I started putting out their stuff on my label,” says Healey. “In the beginning, we always had people looking out for us and helping us out, so that’s what we tried to do.”
Back Ta Basics is the definition of a D.I.Y. operation. At VeryDistro.com, an online distributor for metal, hardcore, and punk music, the product description for Early Dayz, a 25 Ta Life record released on Back Ta Basics in 2005, reads, “ATTENTION: This CD is pretty much a photocopied cover in a jewel case. Don’t say we never warned you.” Healey has no delusions about what he’s doing. “I’m not trying to be like a real big label,” he says. “I get my girlfriend to help me out with some stuff. My mom has helped me out a lot, with the seven inch [records]… putting in the inserts and stuff like that.
“I never expected to make a lot of money or anything like that,” he continues. “It’s hardcore. A lot of the bands I put out are kids I’ve known, friends of mine.”
Operating an indie label is perhaps the ultimate show of support for an underground music scene. And yet, Back Ta Basics has contributed to the negative perception of Healey held by some in the community —and not because of the low-budget packaging. “It’s the way he does his business,” says Zachary Ohler of the Maryland band Strong Intention, whose 2004 album, Extermination Vision, features guest vocals from Healey on two tracks. One of the more successful acts to release music on Back Ta Basics was E-Town Concrete, who, many believe, included thinly veiled barbs at Healey in the liner notes of two of their records. Soon after the New Jersey natives released their debut LP, Time 2 Shine, on Back Ta Basics in 1997, the band signed with Resurrection A.D. Records and reissued the album. In the liner notes of the reissue, E-Town writes of the New Jersey hardcore band Fury of Five: “We encourage others to support them because they are one of the only bands that truly does ‘keep it real’” [their emphasis]. They go on to say that fans should refrain from purchasing the original edition of the record.
The phrase “Keepin’ It Real” is perhaps Healey’s most popular mantra; it served as the title track for 25 Ta Life’s 1996 EP, and appears to this day on the band’s merchandise. E-Town Concrete then released an EP in 1998 called F$ck The World with another message inside: “To that shaydee motherfucker that thinks he can run a business, you know who you are, fuck off and die, we don’t need your help.” The song “Shaydee” from that record features the lyrics: “You’s a foul one / always preach ‘keepin’ it real,’ when you’s a fake bitch handing out raw deals / You’s a shady, jealous bitch, try and play me to get rich.”