Lil Yachty’s “Poland” is 83 seconds long, jarringly repetitive, and purposefully obtuse. And yet, in the hands of TikTok, it’s become a smash, cracking the top half of the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming the pride of its namesake country.
Not that Yachty intended any of this. “The song was a joke,” he said in a reaction video with YouTuber ZIAS! “Like, I was just trolling.” The hook—“I took the Woooooock to Polaaaaand”—is something he improv’d one night after seeing someone sipping a Poland Spring bottle in the studio. So the Poland he’s singing about could technically be Poland, Maine. (“Wock,” if you’re wondering, is a nod to Wockhardt cough syrup.) As the song went viral, internet sleuths tried to find out when Yachty might’ve gone to the Central European country and mostly came up empty-handed. The 25-year-old Atlanta rapper didn’t even plan to release the track, but he ended up putting it on SoundCloud after it found its way online.
The leak proved fortuitous. After “Poland” hit SoundCloud, TikTokkers transformed the song’s malleable chorus into gags about taking action stars overseas (“I took the Rock to Poland”) and staple items back to burrito chains (“I took the guac to Chipotle”). Someone even made a loaf of bread emblazoned with the lyrics. It inspired more than 20,000 creations in a week.
No small number of those came from Poland itself. One video called Yachty’s name-drop a “top 10 moment in Polish history.” Rapper Pat wrote, “This is the proudest I’ve been as a Polish person since [soccer player Robert] Lewandowski scored five goals in 9 minutes.” Another user referred to it as Poland’s new national anthem.
Nikodem Rachoń, a spokesperson for the Polish embassy in Washington, DC, says that he hopes the rapper will one day visit the country, and that the embassy would be glad to facilitate the trip. He even added a bit of music criticism: “I’m pretty sure that on such an occasion, he would have lots of opportunities to find some new inspiration for the next verses the song still apparently needs.”
Rapper Kinny Zimmer says that as soon as he heard the track, he was “sure it would become viral.” As someone who loves modern Polish culture, he hopes that Yachty’s song will root his home country in the minds of Americans and teach his countrymates “how beautiful our Polish aesthetics are.” Rapper Pezet confessed to preferring a “more old-school sound” than that on “Poland” but liked its “cool new vibe” and hoped it could inspire collaborations between Polish and US hip-hop artists.
Others are embracing the song even more fully. Bedoes has dropped a “Poland” remix; in the video, he’s shirtless on a boat with an ax and a glow-in-the-dark shield. “Lil Yachty mentioning my country was a meme to me,” he says, “but it was also kind of surrealistic, because him being a top artist, known worldwide, rapping about my country was really special. I knew all the ways that it probably was a coincidence that he mentioned Poland, but still, that was really special.” He, too, hopes the strange hit leads to an increased appreciation of Polish culture. “Maybe pierogis with Wock?” he jokes.
Unexpectedly for such a fun lark, there’s a thornier geopolitical angle involved with “Poland.” As Lil Yachty’s song spread, messages began circulating on Twitter that Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki had invited the rapper to visit his country. Local media soon debunked the rumor. Anyone fearing increased authoritarianism in Europe might be pleased to know that Yachty isn’t actually liaising with Morawiecki, who represents the ruling Law and Justice Party, which has been criticized for a crackdown on judicial independence and a general slide away from democratic principles.
As of this writing, TikTok videos tagged #lilyachtypoland are hovering close to 6 million views, search results for the song top 1 billion. Yachty’s own “Poland” video has been viewed more than 14 million times. Ultimately, it’s unclear if his song will have a lasting impact on appreciation for Polish culture worldwide, but in a message from the artist on that video’s YouTube page, the rapper makes clear it’s a song for regular folks: “You’re welcome Polish people, you now have Wock.”