Think what you want about Kanye West and his ego, this man can make modern classics in rap music when he wants to. “Flashing Lights” was one of many singles off of his third album Graduation, and I remember when it came out like it was yesterday. It was an experimental synth ballad for the slums of Hollywood culture in a time that didn’t see many outside the box thinkers make it into mainstream rap culture. Graduation as a whole has that elegant flavor but I think that “Flashing Lights” has to be the pinnacle execution of the concept from the album.
Think of it this way: remember the album battle between Kanye West and 50 Cent here? The two household names decided to drop their albums on the same day, and Kanye crushed him. This was five years ago now, and 50 Cent has only moved into the shadows while Kanye continues to blaze his trail through modern music. Some might see it as a stretch, but I like to think of “Flashing Lights” as a turning point in rap music where simple gangster raps just weren’t enough anymore.
To me, the video was just as revolutionary as the song itself. As an avid film geek as well this was something unreal to me, which came out in my 8th grade year and may have sparked my interest in unique film to begin with. Watch the slow-motion video below, directed by both Spike Jonze and Kanye West, himself.
The lyrics are just perfect, as well. Some of Kanye’s best verses, in my opinion, come here along with the one of the best opening lines: “She don’t believe in shooting stars, but she believes in shoes and cars.”
It’s an epic anthem for the technology boom generation, and I’m going to think of it as one of the classics from that whole decade.