Lil Yachty Is Taking Rap By Storm With “Poland,” His Weirdest, Catchiest Song to Date
Lil Yachty is having one of the best weeks of his career thanks to an 83-second song called “Poland,” in which he croons about bringing lean to the Central European country. Since he posted it to Soundcloud nine days ago, the track has become a viral sensation, tallying 6 million plays, inspiring dozens of memes, and making the digital charts in 48 different countries after being uploaded to Apple Music and Spotify. Its video treatment, from in-demand director Cole Bennet, has racked up over 4 million YouTube views and counting. Yachty has since been invited to Poland by the country’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki (at least according to the rapper’s label boss, Pierre “Pee” Thomas). But “Poland” is more than just an unexpected hit: It’s a reminder of Yachty’s oft-doubted potential as a non-traditional rap star.
“I was actually just trolling,” explained Yachty in a reaction video with ZIAS!, talking about how the song randomly came together in the studio when he saw someone“drinking a Poland Spring water bottle. Obviously, I had some Wock, but he had a Poland Spring water bottle. And the song was a joke, like I was just trolling.” Not only was the song a joke, Yachty didn’t even intend to release it until a leak forced his hand. He uploaded it to Soundcloud with the caption, “STOP LEAKING MY SHIT.”
The song became an instant meme thanks to Yachty’s autotune-laced warble of the line “I took the woooOOoooOOck to Poland” (referencing the cough syrup often used in lean) over a woozy beat from Philadelphia producer F1lthy, a member of the Working on Dying producer collective. F1lthy is probably best known for producing six songs on Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red, an album that gained an enduring allure for its sonic experimentation. The hazy “Poland” beat sounds like something that could have slid onto WLR’s tracklist…or soundtracked the boss level of a 16-bit Sega game.
While it was only officially released to streaming services a couple of days ago, there’s good reason to believe “Poland” will quickly impact the Billboard charts, in spite of—or perhaps because of—its length. Popular on TikTok, “Poland” could potentially follow the trajectory of Armani White’s 99-second breakout hit, “BILLIE EILISH,” British rapper Central Cee’s inescapable 97-second song “Doja,” or Bronx rapper Ice Spice’s viral one-minute and 45-second song “Munch (Feelin’ U).”
But unlike those breakthrough acts, Yachty is already an established artist. He first blew up in 2016 as an 18-year-old, when his viral Soundcloud songs, like “Minnesota” and “One Night,” ushered in his self-described style of “bubblegum trap”—so named because they sounded more like Nickelodeon theme songs than the hard-hitting trap music his Atlanta peers were putting out as the city’s popularity crested. Yachty has always been upfront about not coming from the street life, never acting as if he did in his lyrics. Instead, he oozed optimism, rocked his trademark red hair with aplomb, and had a knack for marketing.
As his career took off, critics scoffed and dismissed him as “mumble rap.” To a certain cohort, he represented everything wrong with hip-hop. Yachty had heated interviews with Joe Budden and Ebro, was criticized by legends like Pete Rock, and upset fans when he said he couldn’t name five songs by either 2Pac or Biggie. Lord Jamaar went so far as to say, “People who like this are actually stupid.”
But the joke was on them. “One Night” went double platinum, and since then he’s had some of his best moments as a collaborator, showing genuine chemistry on bubbly, cheery songs like “Broccoli” and “iSpy” (with DRAM and Kyle, respectively), or trap bangers like “From the D to the A” with Tee Grizzley. The “mumble rapper” proved to be an adept songwriter, penning “Act Up,” a hit song for his QC labelmates City Girls. (His cameo in the music video is a tacit nod to his authorship.)
At the same time, the criticism was not completely unwarranted. His debut album, 2017’s Teenage Emotions, clocked in at 70 minutes and it was clear he didn’t always have that much to say. At best, he was charming with a melodic flair. At worst, his bars could come off lazy and clumsy, with lines like, “You stinky and dirty like farts.”
In 2018, he dropped two albums, Lil Boat 2 and Nuthin’ 2 Prove. Despite the latter’s title, it felt like he had internalized the criticism of his early career and was determined to prove he really could rap. On “Everything Good, Everything Right,” he spits, “Gotta prove everyone wrong/Had to take some time alone/Had to regroup, got that shit right.” Yet for all his efforts, he simply wasn’t a top-tier lyricist. His brand is positivity, his attempts at being braggadocious an awkward fit. Generic lines about being a rich, iced-out rapper stripped him of his individuality. His determination became a detriment, he went from meshing with others to getting eclipsed by collaborators like Cardi B and Offset on songs like “Who Want the Smoke.”
Follow-up albums like Lil Boat 3 and Michigan Boy Boat exhibited some musical growth and emotional maturity—particularly the latter, which embraced Detroit rap styles. But neither of those projects produced hits. Ultimately, he may never win over the critics, though it’s clear he doesn’t need to.
The best part about “Poland” is that it’s cold like “Minnesota.” Yachty’s deep baritone voice can lead him to a monotone delivery, which doesn’t always make for compelling verses. On “Poland,” the autotune adds texture, his words unfurl like a bottle of lean carefully being poured into soda. The amateurish nature of his singing and his tendency to carry one melody throughout a song only adds to its appeal. Now 25 years old and seven years removed from his breakout song, Yachty is on the verge of another hit because he embraced the playfulness that made him unique in the first place.
Sure, he’s probably never been to Poland, but the line was perfect fodder for memes. The meme that truly captures the song’s peculiar appeal is a TikTok video posted by @chadio where he starts out calling the song trash before actually listening to it and being seduced by its charm, the malleable lyrics morph from “walk to Poland” to “rock to Oakland” to “guac to Chipotle.” A cynical mind might wonder if there was an orchestrated marketing campaign behind them popping up so fast, but, much like the song itself, they’re too fun to think too hard about.
You’ve probably heard of REI, Backcountry and even Dick’s Sporting Goods as some great online retailers where you can…