“And there was this aura about my dad before. Don’t get me wrong, it still is there, and it will be forever. But there was this aura where you could not even mention his name out loud. It was sort of how you would speak about our greatest kings back in the days.”
“And I believe that one of his most heroic moves is what he did in politics. But all the fools and clowns being in politics, with the propaganda, for me, for a son — it’s heartbreaking to see that now you have some idiots who can allow themselves to say something about my dad, or to critique his moves.”
I saw that he was dancing around the protests, and so I started to bring them up directly, and he cut me off. “That’s all, that’s all, that’s all—very weak, what the opposition is trying to do. They are, what, gathering 40, 50 people, like 100 people? You probably, if you make an Insta Story or something, could gather more people.” He scoffed. “This is just noise for nothing.”
Surprisingly, though, BERA could briefly look past familial protectiveness. “The best way to identify a pure democracy is the media,” he said. “You see everyone critiquing the government, saying how bad things are—OK, you can see it’s a democracy down there.”
Ah, OK. So all this heavy criticism —
“It’s a good thing. Of course!”
After our conversation at his house, BERA and I took a walk next door, to the Georgian Dream studio. Facing us as we entered was an even grander Christmas tree than the one I’ve already seen. Honestly, it was the biggest fucking Christmas tree I’d ever seen. It was lit internally, powerfully, with all of the ghostly white light that Heaven would allow. A staircase snuck around the tree and, every few steps, there were photos from BERA’s life in the business: BERA with Rihanna, BERA with Zendaya, BERA with one-time Vine star Nash Grier. There were also, sweetly, photos of BERA and Tsotne.
The actual recording studio was a small room tucked to the side. A whiteboard held a master list of songs in vitro. BERA said he has enough tracks in the vault to release one every day for the next three years. But he was whittling the stack down to his absolute strongest material, for an album slated for later this year. He’s never had a hard time producing material. “It’s easy work, man,” he said, playing the air piano.
We walked back to the main house right before BERA’s family—his mother, his father, and his two brothers—came to visit. A yelping white Pomeranian led the charge. The security guards handled fanciful balloon bouquets. “They want to see the baby,” BERA shrugged.
He dapped up Tsotne—“hey bro”—and pointed to Ekaterine. “That’s my mum.” Bidzina Ivanishvili came in last. Seeing him was surreal. He was petite. He was forcing an awkward smile. He was not an immediately imposing man.
“That’s my father,” BERA said.
“Nice to meet you,” Bidzina said.
Then, as suddenly as he came in, he disappeared. And BERA decided now was the time for us to wrap up. He’d been battling a cold and the next day was his son’s christening. “I’m a very religious guy,” BERA said. “I shouldn’t say very — I’m a regular guy.” (Later, on Instagram, I’d see photos of the solemn event. Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, performed the ceremony.) “Sorry about my voice,” he said. “Next time, we’ll hang more.”
Before his handlers ushered me out, before another handler drove me back down to old Tbilisi, BERA answered a few last questions. What will his future hold? He was bold, and direct: the goal was domination. “If by the end of this year, you are speaking about the biggest acts of this year, and what happens is, you don’t mention my name first? That means I haven’t reached it yet. If you’re talking about the artists that made the best records — my name has to be on that list.”