Shawn Carter — aka Jay-Z, aka Hova — doesn’t just throw diamonds in the sky, he’s also known to signal the World Water Day “W.” It’s a two-handed gesture flashed by celebrities on social media as part of an annual campaign launched by Drop4Drop. In 2007, the rapper and businessman won an award for his documentary “Diary of Jay-Z: Water For Life” and the accompanying multimedia advocacy campaign he created with MTV and the UN.

“My man Jay-Z has been a wonderful partner to the UN, and a champion of those in need around the world,” said former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, who accepted the award on Jay-Z’s behalf.Jay-Z said the staggering number of people around the world who lack access to safe, clean water motivated him to take action.

“As I started looking around and looking at ways that I could become helpful, it started at the first thing— water, something as simple as water,” he said at a news conference at UN headquarters. “It took very little, very little to see these numbers.”

“I was looking for a cause to attach myself to,” he said. “I knew I was going to some places where there was problems and as soon as I came across the problems of water,

and seen the numbers that were attached to it, I was like — this is it.

After doing some research he learned that the lack of clean water is a global crisis that blights the lives of millions of people every day. The United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water and more than 2.6 billion live without proper sanitation.

“Three people die every three minutes … from easily preventable diseases,” Jay-Z said.

In order to see these problems firsthand, Jay-Z approached MTV and invited a crew to follow him during visits to Angola and South Africa. But he wanted to do more than entertain and meet and greet fans.

“I set an incredibly lofty goal of getting the U.N. involved,” he said. “So they spoke to my people, they spoke to MTV and then the whole thing happened and it’s like — wow!”