The biggest problem with hip-hop today is its commercialization. In the early days before rap music was commercially viable, the hip-hop culture grew out of a sense of community and fun-loving party attitude of a whole generation of the lower income youth in the Bronx. Innovators such as DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa furthered hip-hop as a culture in a positive way. Hip-hop had huge potential to bring awareness of poor urban culture to the masses. Of course, as soon as the record executives discovered this, they commodified hip-hop and the downward trend was begun.
In the beginning, rap stayed relatively real. Gangsta rap very much reflects inner-city culture and so communicates the thoughts and feelings of a large group of people. Whether you find gangsta rap offensive or not, it still can be considered art as it expresses real attitudes and opinions. Also at this time there were still mainstream acts representing the best spirit of hip-hop, such as KRS-One and Run DMC.
But as the gangsta rap phenomenon developed, and more middle-class kids started getting into it, there arose a demand for a new kind of softer rap. Since so many parents disapproved of gangsta rap, there was a huge commercial need for hip-hop which satisfied Middle America's sensibilities. Ironically the original true hip-hop would have fit the bill, but instead the commercial radio scene is dominated by a mix of fake gangsta rappers and money-flashing jiggy rappers who represent nothing but their own lavish lifestyle.
Well, this is no worse than the commercialization of any other kind of music. When there is significant money to be made, you suddenly find that most people doing it care very little about the art. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that getting signed by a major label and being widely distributed requires a different skill set than producing creative and thought-provoking music.
Of course, the true hip-hop still exists even if it is drowned out by all the over-produced cliché-driven rap. I suppose it's no harder to find the gems of hip-hop than it ever was. If you're interested in hearing cutting-edge beats with substance, I suggest checking out the following list: