Prickly present: dancing cactus toy that raps in Polish about cocaine goes viral

Asia's Tech News Daily

A word of warning before you go toy shopping this Christmas: beware the rapping cactus.

The toy, marketed as educational, may teach your children more than you want them to know, as a woman in Brampton, Ontario, discovered the hard way. The miniature, bright-green dancing cactus Ania Tanner bought sings in English, Spanish and Polish while squirming to the beat. After buying it for her granddaughter, Tanner discovered that one of the songs in its repertoire was an explicit tune about cocaine and hopelessness.

“​​It just so happens that I am Polish, and when I started to listen to the songs and I heard the words … I was in shock,” she told CTV News. “I thought: what is this, some kind of joke?”

The gyrating succulent performs a song called Gdzie Jest Biały Węgorz? (Zejście), or Where Is the White Eel? (Descent), whose opening lyrics are, according to various online translations: “The only thing in my head is five grams of cocaine / Fly away alone, to the edge of oblivion.” Later lines include swearing, graphic imagery and references to depression.

A representative for the rapper, Cypis, says he had “no idea” the song was being used in a children’s toy. “He’s disgusted,” the spokesman, Zbigniew Florek, said.

Walmart has since removed the listing for the toy. “These items are sold by a third-party seller on our marketplace website. We are removing the items while we look into this complaint further,” the company told CTV.

It’s not the first time the issue has been raised. Reports in July described a Polish-speaking woman in Taiwan who bought the toy and had a similar experience.

Dancing cactus toys have existed since at least December 2020. Since then, countless similar items have popped up, and remain available, on Amazon and Alibaba – although it’s not clear whether the early versions contained the Polish song.

Amazon declined to comment. Alibaba did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Who manufactures the items is unclear. They are attributed to a variety of sellers, and the overwhelming quantity of cacti points to an apparent dropshipping operation.

Dropshippers seek out cheap products – such as dancing cacti or talking plush hamsters – that they think could be big hits. They then act as middlemen between suppliers and buyers, hoping their items will be popular. Many of these items come from China. Often, the products exist there long before dropshippers swoop in.

In the case of the dancing cactus, the dropshippers appear to have gotten their wish. The toys are a huge hit and have also gone viral on TikTok. A video in which Ryan Svendsen, AKA @musicbefore, plays Lil Nas X’s Industry Baby on the trumpet for a collection of cacti – which light up and echo his performance – has racked up more than 62m views. Others have posted videos of people dancing with the cacti and babies interacting with the toys.

The latest controversy may leave some parents feeling prickly about the cactus. For others, however, the song appears to have become a selling point. “Has the Polish song,” says one five-star Amazon review. “Sings … a Polish song about cocaine use. 10/10 would buy for my 1 year old again,” writes another reviewer.

And it could all pay off for Cypis himself, who posted a comment under the Where Is the White Eel? music video: “Grab the link to my new album. PS: Let the cactus be with you!”

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