Years in the making, Plata o Plomo -- the collaborative LP from Terror Squad members Fat Joe and Remy Ma -- presents a collection that plays like a mixtape (or playlist) with a wide variety of club-friendly hip-hop that often tugs on '90s nostalgia heartstrings while updating their sound with 2017 production. The main draw of the album is the effortless interplay between its headliners, whose male-female verse trading maintains freshness over the course of 12 tracks. Named after the favored ultimatum presented by drug lord Pablo Escobar -- "silver or lead," i.e. bribe money or a bullet -- Plata o Plomo was Joe's first major release since 2013's The Darkside III mixtape and Remy's second effort following I'm Around, her 2014 effort that arrived soon after her release from prison. The pair waste no time establishing their dominance and the opening stretch of the album is an apt reminder of their legacies. "Warning" is a trip-hoppy, skittering electro introduction that features the very Rihanna-sounding Kat Dahlia, but the album truly kicks off on "Swear to God." Over a booming beat courtesy of longtime producers Cool & Dre, Joe's barbs are both rough and humorous ("That's why I call you Jose/'Cause you do whatever these hoes say"), and when Remy arrives, her impact almost overshadows him. Her delivery throughout the album is aggressive, hungry, and highly entertaining. Whether issuing menacing threats of violence or rough sex ("Spaghetti" and "Too Quick"), the Bronx rapper holds her own and has such a distinctive voice that she ends up being the heart of the whole project. A pair of French Montana-featuring singles -- the Grammy-nominated hit "All the Way Up" and the booming "Cookin" -- blend old-school New York grit with contemporary bombast, while the ominous "How Can I Forget" and "How Long" provide the obligatory trap cuts. In addition to the chest thumping, Plata also includes some slinky, baby-making R&B-inflected tracks ("Go Crazy" and "Money Showers") and the shimmering dancehall "Heartbreak," which features The-Dream on the hook. While that single is a conspicuous addition that sounds more like a Drake/Justin Bieber mashup, it's a brief and welcome shift in tone for Plata. The LP closes with "Dreamin," which features gospel singer Stephanie Mills. It's a sobering and serious moment that finds Joe looking back on his past and Remy reflecting on her incarceration and survival ("I'm a prime example of keeping it too real/Had somebody ask me if I learned my lesson/Told them, 'Actually prison made me more aggressive.'"). Fans of either rapper will enjoy hearing them together for an entire album. The effect doesn't wear out and Plata o Plomo ends up being a worthwhile addition to both discographies.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung