NEW YORK — When Jay-Z talks, his words reverberate all around the world.
On Wednesday morning (August 9), he held a press conference at the United Nations building with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, MTV President Christina Norman and others to announce a partnership aimed at bringing attention and relief to the many parts of the world where lack of safe drinking water is destroying communities and lives.
On his international tour, which begins next month, Jay will travel to several areas affected by the water crisis. His experiences will be documented by MTV for a special, “Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life,” airing November 24.
The special will follow Jay’s learning process as he meets people who are among the 1 billion worldwide without access to safe drinking water. It will also follow Jay as he visits places where sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions are under way to bring fresh water to devastated communities.
“It’s a huge responsibility, and humbling at the same time,” Jay said, after the conference, about the role he’s taking on. “I wanted to go to these [countries I've never visited before] to just tour and play music. Of course, I can’t go to any place without touching the culture and seeing what’s going on. When you start getting down to Africa and places like that, you see that billions of people don’t have access to water.”
The special will also encourage young people to take any of the 12 steps associated with “Break the Addiction,” MTV’s yearlong campaign to engage young people to help reduce global warming, which has exacerbated the world’s water crisis. Beginning in September, Think.mtv.com will feature a special section dedicated to the project.
“It’s a basic thing to us,” Jay said. “If you bring awareness to other young people, they’re gonna see [that] and want to be involved. I’m not a politician — I’m just a regular person with a heart. If you see a problem like that and do nothing about it, there’s something wrong with you.”
Jay said that when he heard the statistics, he wanted to get involved right away.
“I’m very excited to go and not only be a rock star in these countries, but to help,” he said while seated next to Annan. “I’m excited. Thanks to the U.N. and MTV.”
Annan began the conference by citing statistics showing that more than 4,500 children die each day from preventable diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Jay said he has donated money to help build “play pumps,” a merry-go-round-like structure that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time children spin it. He added that he’s mailed letters to his friends in the entertainment industry encouraging them to get involved as well. He said he hopes 1,000 pumps can be built.
Although the itinerary of Jay’s tour has not yet been announced, it will begin on September 9 in Poland, and MTV’s cameras will catch up to him shortly after in Turkey. Initially, Hov said he wanted to go to places he never touched before but where he has a fanbase.
“I wanted to get out and play places I haven’t seen. See people who have a connection, people who have been listening to my music for 10 years and never got to see me,” he explained after the conference.
Although he acknowledged that it might be difficult to shake off the sadness of seeing so much human tragedy during the day and become a fun-loving showman at night, he said the shows will not be melancholy.
“Music is escapism,” he said. “Also, I’ll take joy in the fact for that two hours or however long I’m playing, everyone can enjoy themselves and forget about the issue we’re talking about.”