Kanye West told Concrete Loop how the lyrical inspiration for this song came from a higher place: "Like on this one, I didn't even try, I just zoned out, I'd go into the studio and vibe to the beat and just [he starts to rap some of "Flashing Lights"] and it came and God gave me the words."
"Flashing Lights" features vocals from R&B and soul singer Dwele and Connie Mitchell. The latter is lead singer of the Australian dance act Sneaky Sound System, and is featured on four of Graduation's tracks. Sneaky Sound System producer Black Angus told The Sun February 27, 2009, that it was he who suggested Connie Mitchell to West when he was out having dinner with him one night. He explained: "Kanye was sat there sipping tea like it was soup, with a teaspoon. He was working in the studio for three weeks but was struggling for inspiration. I told him he should meet our singer as she is amazing. The next day we got a call so told Connie to get down to the studio in her prettiest dress and to sing." Connie Mitchell added with a smile: "The boys were pimping me! But it was an amazing experience and I got to know his late mother, who was lovely. She raised a good boy."
The lyrics, "Like Martin with no Gina" are a reference to the '90s TV show Martin, where the characters Martin and Gina (played by Tisha Campbell) were a couple.
Unusually for West, this song contains no credited samples.
The bedrock of David Guetta's Nicki Minaj-featuring single "Hey Mama" is a sample of "Rosie," a 1940s prison recording from folk archivist Alan Lomax that songwriter Esther Dean first showed the French DJ on YouTube.